Metro Testing Wool Seat Coverings
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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