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Metro Testing Rail Cars

Metrorail today launched a few new test cars that incorporate some of the design elements that could help save wear and tear on the trains and increase their capacity and comfort. That will be partly for you to decide.

Here's what to look for:

-- In rail cars 6104 and 6105, there's no carpet on the floors. Metro is testing a new, resilient material as flooring. It's supposed to last longer and be easier to clean. The transit authority says it will check the material every day to make sure it's holding up and also will get rider reaction.

Grab bars are placed along ceiling rails to reach shorter riders. (Metro photo)

These test cars also have stainless steel grab bars overhead. These should help out shorter commuters who have been complaining that the newest cars, the 6000 series don't have enough convenient places for standees to get a grip.

(In the 6000 series, Metro removed some of the poles from the ends of the cars to encourage people to move toward the center and away from the doors. I like the way the design of the 6000 series opens up the area at the front and rear, but I find that when these new trains get crowded, people just lean against the doors.)

bench seating (2).jpg Bench seats line both sides of test car for more standing room. (Metro photo)

-- In rail car 3283, you'll see the latest test of how a train of the future might be configured. Metro removed 16 seats and added two sets of leaning rests at one end of the car. There's bench seating along the sides in the middle of the car, something we often refer to as the New York City style of car design, except the NYC style is a flat bench, without the butt rests featured in the Metro configuration. This test car also has 15 of those overhead grab bars down the center and a three-handle, floor-to-ceiling pole at one end.

The idea here is to continue efforts to open up the cars, provide more standing room, more space for wheelchairs and more space for luggage, strollers and bikes. As in other car design tests, there are video cameras aboard to watch how passengers use this car.

leaning rests (2).jpg Car's end has four of these leaning rests. (Metro photo)

This design gets at many of the most common complaints about crowding that I get from passengers, so it will be very interesting to hear your reaction. The test cars were on display this morning at Reagan National Airport Station. Metro said it would send them out into passenger service on the Yellow Line.

By Robert Thomson  |  December 4, 2007; 1:54 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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I've used similar leaning pads on the London Underground and they were fine. London didn't provide the metal handles, though, and the handles seem to me to be just another obstruction to traffic flow.

It strikes me that the overhead metal straps are a good idea but that it would make more sense to have two rails running the length of the car with these things on them, as that would allow more people to grab ahold.

Posted by: Rich | December 4, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Ah--I see from WTOP's version of this story that one of the test cars does have two ceiling rails with the metal straps.

Posted by: Rich | December 4, 2007 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Except on the tube, they're attached directly to the wall of the car. Here, they look as if they are taking up space and the poles for the frame are less than brilliant. Yes, my butt will be cushioned, but I'll have a metal bar in the small of my back (or at least that's how it looks).

And you know people are going to be leaning against the entire structure of the triple bars. Blocking three instead of just one!

Posted by: MB | December 4, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I love that they are getting rid of the carpet. I suspect it is full of mold and mildew that affects a lot of people with allergies.

Posted by: SSMD | December 4, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

how about finding a way to incorporate a cattle prod into the doors?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 4, 2007 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Doors are key - all this work and they didn't make the doors any bigger.

Posted by: Josey23 | December 4, 2007 5:11 PM | Report abuse

No matter what METRO does it will NEVER satisfy Washington area folks !!! If the system ran perfectly you'd all still find a complaint !! Stop the whining folks !!! Gezzzz

Posted by: sdwillie | December 4, 2007 7:58 PM | Report abuse

I'd just be happy if I could get on a train in the morning with the confidence that it would actually get me to my destination. Today was the second day in a row that the train I boarded was off-loaded for mechanical problems. Absolutely unacceptable.

Posted by: Orange line rider | December 4, 2007 8:31 PM | Report abuse

My feeling is that the entire car should be bench seating, and that most, if not all, of the benches should be able to flip up against the wall to account for extremely crowded conditions. (A few of the seats should be fixed, for use by the elderly and disabled.) Ridership on metro continues to grow at a steady rate, and the configuration of the railcars must account for that growth, even if it results in a little less comfort.

Posted by: courthousetounionstation | December 5, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I see that they remember a place for wheelchairs and even put a grab bar in for them. That's a good thing. Hopefully people standing there will move when someone in a wheelchair boards.

Posted by: dkf747 | December 5, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

The car with the bench seats and single ceiling rail seems to me to have insufficient holding-on space for the people who will be standing between the seats. I realize these configurations are an experiment -- I hope the two-rail design will previal.

Posted by: mark | December 5, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

The problem is that decisions about how to configure cars seem to be made by people who only view the system in the abstract.

Leaving open area by the doors is great, except that the train is too crowded for that. Just because there's nothing to hold onto doesn't mean that people won't stand there...and they have to because the rest of the train is too crowded.

Even this new design has room in front of the bench seating, but very little to hold onto. Maybe 5 of those overhead bars and only one horizontal bar in an area that holds more than 20 people.

Is it an improvement? Probably. But Metro can and must do much better.

Posted by: nashpaul | December 5, 2007 5:26 PM | Report abuse

I just wish Metro would stop screwing around with redesigning the cars. Every penny they waste on redesigning Metro cars could be used to--oh, I don't know--perhaps MAINTAIN THE CURRENT FLEET? In my riding experiences since Catoe took over, trains have been breaking down and buses are either chronically late or magically disappear. With as many operational problems as there are in the system, figuring out how to squeeze more people into cars (at which I would suggest just rip everything out and turn the fleet into glorified cattle cars) is no where near as important as keeping everything else running. Besides, according to this Examiner article ( , Metro's revolutionary new seating arrangement will increase max capacity from 182 riders per car to an astounding 187. Wow. An excellent use of subsidies, indeed. That new car will hold five more people to throw a fit when they're delayed because an undermaintained car elsewhere in the train breaks down.

As for the carpet removal, no. "Cost savings" my bum, I'm sure Metro will find other ways to waste the money. That and I expect that the ugly, hard floors will amplify sound in the car. If this is the case, the last thing I want to hear at the end of the day is even louder "STEP BACK!! DOORS CLOSING!!" nagging. Leave the design alone; fix the system.

Posted by: Mirai Zikasu | December 6, 2007 2:52 PM | Report abuse

electrify the doors

Posted by: Anonymous | December 7, 2007 6:29 PM | Report abuse

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