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Metro Testing Wool Seat Coverings

test car.jpg

Car number 6027 is the Grand Canyon of the Metrorail system. Step aboard and you can see a history of transit tests by looking at the horizontal layers from bottom to top.

Railcar Seats- Balls and Rainbows 120908 003.jpg Testing: balls and seals seats. (Metro)

The floor is one of the test versions of the new carpet-less style. The base of the center seats is wrapped in the striped carpet that replaced the original style of carpet in the older cars.

The seat covers are wool rather than vinyl, a test that Metro launched today in two rail cars that will travel around the system for a few months.

Look closer to the ceiling, and you'll see the new stainless steel grab handles that now have been installed on other 6000 Series rail cars.

Railcar Seats- Blue Squares 120908 009.jpg Testing: blue squares seats. (Metro)

This morning, reporters got a chance to view the car at Reagan National Airport Station before it went into regular service as part of a Yellow Line train. Despite all the design features of the car, boarding passengers behaved as we all do: reading, listening with headphones, staring at nothing.

The seat designs in cars 6027 and 6026 are worth checking out. It's not just that the covers are wool. There's a type of fabric called aura that comes in blue dots, red dots and blue squares. There's another type called vigor that features two patterns: gray rainbow and balls and seals. (Really, it looks like seals juggling balls -- something Metro board chairman Chris Zimmerman has yet to acknowledge.)

Railcar Seats- Gray Rainbows 120908 002.jpg Testing: gray rainbows seats. (Metro)

He noted that we were focusing too much on the patterns and not enough on the fabric. Changing the fabric would be the really substantive change. That's the main reason for the test: How well will the fabric hold up in regular use on the rail system? How difficult will it be to clean? Does gum stick to it?

The vinyl seats you're used to having at your back are cleaned every 60 days and replaced every one to three years, depending on the degree of wear, at a cost of $20 a seat.

Railcar Seats-Blue Dots  120908 005.jpg Testing: blue dots seats. (Metro)

It's getting more difficult to find makers of vinyl seats, said Dave Kubicek, the assistant general manager for Metrorail. The industry has moved on, and he's looking for a replacement that will take us into the future, at least through the next fleet of rail cars, called the 7000 Series. The first of them are supposed to arrive in time for the new rail line to Dulles.

Meanwhile, back in car 3146, there's a blue tint to the lighting. It's another experiment: Metro is testing a new LED lighting technology. I'm not sure about this one. It will take some getting used to. My first impression is that it's creepy. Look from another car into the LED-lit car, or vice versa, and I think you'll see what I mean.

Railcar Seats-Red Dots 120908 001.jpg Testing: red dots seats. (Metro)

But it would make sense, as a financial matter, to move toward this new system. The LEDs last a lot longer and use less juice. Let me know if you think it's any easier to read by these new lights.

By Robert Thomson  |  December 9, 2008; 2:48 PM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Not being a regular Yellow Line rider, I haven't noticed the new seat covers. From the photos in these articles, I can see that the covers are my fav colors: red and blue. I hope these seats are comfortable, and that they do well in the tests. Speaking of which, has Metro thought of asking riders their thoughts about these new seats?

Posted by: ShepCWillner | December 11, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Was on a green line train late last night that had the new seats. I think they are more comfortable than the old seats, and I like the colors and asthetics of them. I do wonder if the fabric will be hard to keep clean/will need replacing more often. I also notice the non carpeted floor. As it was quite a rainy night last night, I can attest that the floor was not slippery at all, which is a worry I had with the removal of the carpet.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | December 12, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

The one benefit to carpetless cars is that Metro won't have to suffer the potential consequences of its own stupidity at times. I have seen many rail cars in Brentwood Yard with all the doors open in the pouring rain, and I surmise that can't be good for the carpets, or other parts of the rail car's interior.

Posted by: SchuminWeb | December 15, 2008 12:44 AM | Report abuse

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