Thursday, July 7, 2011

Early Details on Metro's New Cars

From C.H. Schmitt:
Metro is continuing to lay plans for its next generation of railcars – the 7000 series – and an early review shows planners seem to be getting some key things right.

Metro has been holding focus groups, and it recently briefed the WMATA Riders’ Advisory Council on plans for the new cars. According to Metro officials, the transit agency plans to bring 64 of the new cars into service by the end of 2013, with an initial option for another 64, followed by an option for 300 more to replace the first cars in the fleet, the 1000 series. After that, there could be even more, to expand the fleet.

Here’s a rundown on what they said about features important to riders:

Seats: First off, they’ll be transverse, like now, rather than bench-style, along the sides. But the best news: Not cloth! (Some will recall recent news reports on the disgusting crud that inhabits cloth seats.) The final design isn’t set yet, officials said. The goal is a polyurethane material that resembles leather, and which would have a more “foamy” feel while also not getting as warm. If that doesn’t prove to be possible, the fallback is vinyl, similar to today.

Flooring: Carpeting is gone. Replacing it will be a kind of industrial grade plastic/vinyl called “resilient” flooring, which officials say is easier to maintain and a lot cleaner.

Noise: Even without carpet to buffer sound, there will be no greater noise inside the car when trains hit higher speeds.

No audio ads: This is great news for many folks who feared being a captive audience. The new cars will have video screens, and thus perhaps video advertisements. But they will have no audio capability, so talking ads aren’t going to happen.

Color scheme: So far, there are two concepts. “Business Elegance” is bluish, which Metro officials say creates an illusion of being a bigger space. This scheme has a dark, blue-speckled floor with white walls, and otherwise is blue. “Subtle Signature” is more a mix of gray and blue tones. It has a dark, red-speckled floor with white walls, and otherwise is grayish-blue. There will be no brown or yellow.

Announcements: Will be recorded.

Air conditioning: Metro’s acting chief engineer promises it will be better. The big issue now is loss of Freon coolant through leakage in lines, he said. The new cars will have sealed lines and be roof-mounted, and should be more reliable.

Other: Lots of handholds. More stanchions to grab onto along the rows of seats. No defined arm-rests are planned. There is to be a V-shaped divide between two adjoining seatbacks to delineate the space for those who want space.

Needs changing: One design Metro showed off has half-height screens at the doors. But the screens are transparent. A Metro official said that’s because people like to look down through the length of the car, but that seems like a non-issue to me. More importantly, too much stuff gets squished up against the current screens, inches from a seated rider’s face. One can only imagine the visual if the screen is transparent. If you know what I mean.

(C.H. Schmitt is a member of the Riders’ Advisory Council.)
Other items:
Metro urged to buy fewer 7000-series cars (WaPo)
Gray backs above ground Dulles station (WaPo)
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