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Metrorail Adding Overhead Handles

All of the newest Metrorail cars, the 184 cars known as the 6000 Series, now have stainless steel spring-loaded overhead handles for riders to grab if they can't get to the poles or railings.

On 300 of the older cars, Metro is adding black nylon grab handles. You may have seen them already. They're not the greatest looking things, resembling leftover Halloween decorations, but they should be a help to shorter riders.

We did a reader survey on our Commuter page (Get a Grip) in which we sought opinions on the different styles of handles that Metro was considering for the cars.

In a column, I reported that most people who responded said they liked the stainless steel handles going into the 6000 Series and wished they could be used in all the cars. The other choices were the black nylon, and gray or yellow vinyl. People worried that the nylon or vinyl would prove difficult to keep clean.

But there were some complaints from shorter riders about the difficulty of grabbing hold of the spring-loaded steel handles. These riders pointed out that the handles point toward the windows, away from the aisles, so the passenger has to leap to grab hold of them.

The black nylon handles hang straight down and are easier to reach. I wonder if the taller riders are having to brush them aside as they walk down the aisles?

One thing I notice about Metrorail riders: They rarely reach up for a hand hold. They much prefer to hold onto a pole, or to a railing along the side of the car.

By Robert Thomson  |  November 19, 2008; 7:14 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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The spring-loaded handles may be easier to keep clean, but I think they'll be very difficult for short people to reach. The vinyl handles do hit me in the head, but they're easier in the long run for shorter people to use.

Some of the cars have eliminated some of the handicapped (sideways) seating near the doors in favor of rails/handles on the walls. If we can only keep people from *sitting* on those rails so the rest of us can get a hand-hold!

Posted by: mensa58 | November 19, 2008 9:14 AM | Report abuse

I think concerns over how easy it is to clean the straps or handles are only relevant if anybody actually expects Metro to bother to do any cleaning.

Posted by: TheCounter | November 19, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Grabbing the overhead straps or handles isn't the only issue for riders of shorter stature: Balance is the primary problem. I also have short arms, so while I can sort of reach the handholds, I really can't balance myself on a lurching train very well using them. Thus, I end up careening into my neighboring passengers for an entirely different reason.

BTW, those open areas near the doors on the new trains are *really* problematic for short passengers. Apparently nobody took into consideration that while the walls do have handrails, Metro riders include "wall hogs" who splay themselves width-wise in front of them, using the wall to balance themselves for the ride. While I'm not shy about asking someone to move, it's very hard to grab a piece of handrail when the wall hogs are in force on a very crowded train.

Posted by: OneSockOn | November 19, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I am qa rider in a wheelchair. In the new cars I have to sit near the wall, because that's the only place to hold on to. Am I a "wall-hog"?

Posted by: dkf747 | November 19, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

People are so quick to take unnecessary offense. Of course you're not one of the "wall hogs" that OneSockOn referred to. The problem he or she identified is not being caused by hordes of wheelchair-users lining up along the walls. (I've never seen more than two wheelchair-users in a Metro car at one time.) OneSockOn was talking about standing people who have no concept of courtesy or their spatial relationship with the rest of the world. They're probably the same people who would lean their full bodies against the center pole, even when they knew that someone else was trying to get a handhold on that pole.

Put differently, it's like the moral/ethical difference between a large person whose size might unavoidably crowd me in a Metro seat, and the (not large) idiot who plopped down next to me this morning with her large bag still on her shoulder, oblivious to the fact that her bag was digging into my ribs and smacking me around every time she shifted her body around to read the name of each stop.

Posted by: Janine1 | November 19, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I agree that any handles are better than none. It's impossible to keep your balance if you are holding on to the bar on the backs of the seats.
Also, maybe it would be nice if people were a little more mindful of their fellow riders. This morning the redline was clogged much worse than usual and on my train, as I was standing and tripping over people everytime it stopped or moved again, I noticed a woman with an infant standing in the middle between the two doors. She was near the seats reserved for senior citizens and those disabled. On a day like today I think it's fine if someone who doesn't fit into one of those categories sits there, if they get up if someone more needy gets on. Back to this lady, no one offered her a seat. No one. I did note that most if not all of the people in the seats closest to her were men. These men were not elderly and did not seem disabled. I realize some people may not outwardly appear to need a seat when they most definitely do, but out of all these men, I'm sure at least one would have been able to stand.
It was atrocious that no one got up for her.

Posted by: smallgovtgirl | November 19, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for clarifying my comment, Janine. Wall hogs definitely don't include people in wheelchairs, but rather the displaced center pole leaners who act oblivious to everything going on around them. C'mon folks, it's public transportation. Please realize that there's a tradeoff of expanded personal space for the economy, efficiency, and environmentally friendly aspects of using Metrorail.

Posted by: OneSockOn | November 19, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm a west coast resident who interned in Washington in the summer of 2007 and rode the Metro everywhere. I'm a 4'10 woman who does not wear high heels.

While I don't remember whether the Metro trains I rode had any sort of strap, I do know that the only way I could hold on and maintain my balance was to grab a pole or hold the back of a seat. Reaching any strap/bar above my head required stretching my arm as far as possible and standing on my toes, so any sudden stops sent me swinging into other people. All I could do was apologize, laugh and make jokes about how my time there was really just teaching me how to have perfect balance anywhere.

Posted by: jobetta | November 19, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Too short, too wide, how about too tall? I cannot sit in any seat with a seat in front of it. That elimintates 90% of the seats for me. I'm the guy who has to swing my legs into the aisle just to occupy a seat. People get annoyed when the seat next to the window is open and I refuse to turn into some sort of contortionist and fold my 6'5 frame into a seat designed for no one above 5'9.

Posted by: dcshaky | November 19, 2008 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I wasn't offended. Just want to make sure that I understood what was meant.

Posted by: dkf747 | November 19, 2008 6:28 PM | Report abuse

"People get annoyed when the seat next to the window is open and I refuse to turn into some sort of contortionist and fold my 6'5 frame into a seat designed for no one above 5'9."

Do you mind getting up to allow a person to sit in that window seat though? I'm not too shy to ask "May I sit there?" but it is annoying when someone on the outside seat gets in a huff about having to stand up to let me in. I totally understand the tall thing though. One of my friend's is 6' 2" and doesn't really fit comfortably in any seat but the sideways ones and the first forward or backwards facing seat next to the sideways ones. He just stands when he can't get one of these though.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | November 20, 2008 2:53 PM | Report abuse

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