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What will Metro's next cars look like?

By Robert Thomson

Riders ask if they can have any say about what the next generation of rail cars will look like. Metro says the answer is yes, and it will happen over the next year and a half.

But riders have very different ideas about what is comfortable and efficient in a car design. It's unlikely the final design will make everyone happy, but at least people will get their say.

Starting in January, the transit authority says, planners will reach out to riders and employees to help design the cars. Train operators, for example, will be consulted about the design of the cabs. The people who work in the yards and fix the cars will be consulted about maintenance issues.

Riders will have a chance to talk about the car interiors, including the coverings for the walls, floors and seats; the signage displays and locations; the lighting and hand holds.

The transit staff foresees two time periods when it will seek rider comments. The first will be January through March. Then after a preliminary design phase, the staff will go back to the public for discussions about fine-tuning. That will occur from July through September, if the schedule holds.

Besides working with the general public, the transit authority says, it also will continue to seek the views of advisers who include the Metro Riders Advisory Council, the Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Metro Transit Police.

Kawasaki, the company that will manufacture the new 7000 Series rail cars, will have its own design people working on the project. Metro officials note that those people will naturally represent the interests of their employer, so the transit authority will contract with an industrial transportation designer to provide assistance in planning and to be the agency's advocate with Kawasaki.

At its Thursday meeting, Metro's Customer Service and Operations Committee discussed the plans for getting advice from riders and employees.

The board members illustrated how tough some of the design issues can be when they fell into a discussion about the here and now, rather than the future. The 6000 Series cars, the newest in the fleet, were retrofitted with metal hand-grips after shorter riders complained that the original design left them little to hold onto, except their fellow passengers.

Many riders still find it difficult to grab the hand-grips. Often, standees just hold onto the seat rails on either side of the aisle. Then there's the issue of how to stay standing near the front and rear doors, where poles were removed to get people to move toward the center of the car. There are no hand-grips at all around those areas. Board members wanted the staff to take a look at that issue, as well.

But all this will be better once we have the 7000 Series, right?

By Robert Thomson  | November 5, 2010; 11:35 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail  
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Center facing seats only and a slip free floor that is easier to keep clean than carpet. This way there is room for people to stand and it will aid in speeding up the boarding and unloading process at stations. The system needs every second it can get to make trains move more efficiently especially on the blue/orange with the impending silver line.

Posted by: JTDCA | November 5, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

We should not allow Metro employees input in design of the cars' interior. The agency has already proven incompetent in most endeavors, and I could not trust most Metro employees I've interacted with understanding good design practice.

Kawasaki already builds NYC's subway cars, and they are quieter and more reliable than anything in Metro's fleet, operating on a far older system. Look to the manufacturer and outside systems such as in Europe and Asia for best design practices. Madrid, Berlin, Tokyo, Seoul all have excellent systems with far better rolling stock than Metro has ever been able to "design" for us in its 40 years. Time to do this right.

If we continue to allow Metro employees to design these cars, we'll be back to that lovely orange carpet and poorly placed seating in no time.

Posted by: borkborkbork | November 5, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

My required comment:
The doors will continue to be too small and/or too few.
Station dwell times (how long the train is stopped at a station as people get off/on) is a major issue now and looms as the major capacity-limiting factor as Metrorail approaches 1 million daily riders. WMATA tries to nibble at the edge of the issue by moving grab bars and painting the floor but it is my understanding that making the doorways bigger or adding more doors is off the table. It makes my head hurt.

Posted by: KS100H | November 5, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I like the dual facing seats but the carpet must go - if I get on another mildewy musty car, I'm going to puke. It makes a crowded (sometimes hot) ride home, that much more unbearable.

And while they're at it, how about a more reliable audio system?

BUt more importantly, why are they buying new cars when the rest of the system is perpetually broken? Seriously, haven't used a lower level escalator at Chinatown in damn near a year.

Posted by: SusSgt | November 5, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

1. Longitudinal seating. I know this may be unpopular given the sheer length of the ride from Ashburn to the core, but it's the one sure-fire way to increase car capacity.

2. Married quads should allow free passage from one car to another.

Posted by: vnangia | November 5, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

One has to wonder why we constantly reinvent the wheel with things like this.

There are dozens of subway / metrorail systems in operation around the world.

No, we have to pay an outside industrial design consultant to oversee the industrial designers on Kawasakis staff that we are ALREADY paying for.

Line up the top 10 subway car designs in the world and pick one. There, I just saved metro 10 million in design fees and a few wasted years of time.

Posted by: Nosh1 | November 5, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

vnangia wrote
1. Longitudinal seating
Unfortunately I tend to puke while riding sideways. Hope it is not on your shoes.

Posted by: mmad2 | November 5, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Don't even think about that rainbow colored seating that every transit agency seems to love! I'm commuting not taking a psychedelic trip! And while we're on that subject lets stick to leather or vinyl so I can tell whether there is any kind of fluid is on my seat prior to sitting.

Posted by: Razor04 | November 5, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

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