Metrorail highlights car numbers
Metro is in the midst of making the four-digit rail car numbers more prominent. That's a good safety move to help emergency responders and Metro personnel, but it also has several uses for riders.
In this retrofit, the transit authority is removing the small numbers below the operator's window and installing taller, reflective numbers high up on the end of each car. (Inside the rail cars, you still can find the numbers at the ends of each car.) The work on the 1,130 rail cars is scheduled to be done by the summer.
So why do you care what the car number is? First, it's important if you're trying to report a problem to Metro, either over the intercom or by cellphone. Whether it's about a fight, a problem with the heat or air-conditioning or a busted door, the responder is going to want to know the car number. The car number also helps if you have a complaint about the condition of the car and you want to send that to Metro via e-mail.
But for the average rider waiting on a platform, the car number also is going to tell you something about the ride ahead. A veteran commuter may have a particular affection or dislike for particular cars based on years of experience. That commuter would look at all four of the digits before stepping aboard. But the average rider would know enough just by the first digit, which tells you something about the age of the car and its interior configuration.
Starting off aboard a 1000 Series car or a 6000 Series car can affect your mood for the day. The 1000s are the oldest, and they look it. The walls, seats and carpeting seem dingy and the lighting not very bright. They have a closed-in feeling. The 6000s are the newest and have the brightest interiors. The elimination of some seats and poles gives the cars a more open feel.
Here's a brief guide:
1000 Series. Riders are most likely to know those numbers, because 1000 Series cars made up the striking train in the June 22 Red Line crash. They were the ones that crumpled. The National Transportation Safety Board already had raised questions about their crash-worthiness. After the crash, Metro stopped placing them at the ends of the trains and moved them into the middles. These 290 cars are the original ones made for Metro by Rohr Industries in the 1970s, and they are beyond the point where it would be worthwhile to rehabilitate them. They are scheduled to be replaced in a few years. They have 82 seats.
2000/3000 Series. These cars, made by Breda Costruzioni Ferroviarie, arrived in the 1980s. There are 364 of them in service. Over the past decade, they were rehabilitated, a process that included changing the interior colors to mostly red, white and blue. They have 68 seats. The end ones are that original Metro mustard color, which looks weird next to the red and blue seats. The rehab did give them a brighter appearance.
4000 Series. There are 100 of these Breda-built cars in service. They arrived in the early 1990s and aren't scheduled to be rehabilitated for a few years, so some riders mistake them for the 1000 series, because of the Metro mustard and orange colors and dingy interiors. They seat 68.
5000 Series. The 190 cars in service were built by CAF and entered service in 2001. They were the first to have the red, white and blue interiors as part of their original design. They are still in pretty good shape and aren't scheduled for rehabilitation until around the early 2020s. The 5000s introduced the LED displays identifying the line by name and by color. They also seat 68.
6000 Series. There are 184 of these, built by Alstom. The seating capacity of 64 is the lowest in the fleet, and this was controversial when they were introduced from 2006 through 2009. In addition to eliminating some seats, they eliminated some poles near the doors, to get people to move toward the center and away from the end doors. Many people like the roomier standing areas, but other passengers said they no longer had anything to grip -- except a fellow passenger -- as they moved toward the doors to exit. They also have the red, white and blue interiors, but it takes only a moment for a boarding passenger to distinguish them from previous generations because of the reduced number of seats and poles.
What's your favorite, or does it matter as long as they get you there unshaken?
March 3, 2010; 2:10 PM ET
Categories: Metro | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrorail
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