WASHINGTON–Metro has a new train on the tracks and it’s all people can talk about. “Oohs” and “ahs” were heard Wednesday when passengers stepped onto the newest addition to Metro’s fleet.
The transit agency debuted its first set of eight 7000-series train cars Tuesday morning on the Blue Line leaving Franconia-Springfield.
The technologically advanced 7000-series cars are constructed to meet the latest fire safety standards, uphold improved crashworthiness standards and have digital video surveillance systems.
The new cars have a sleek, redesigned look as well. Gone are the the grimy, stained carpets and seats, the outdated color scheme and the garbled sounds from overhead speakers.
Ushered in are non-slip floors, lumbar support vinyl-cover seats and LCD maps that help passengers track their location. The cars are brighter in comparison to their dingy and dull predecessors and feature LED screens that provide riders with upcoming station information.
A Metro custodial employee, Kristie Harris, 37, was in awe during her first ride in one of the new cars Wednesday.
“I’m so impressed,” Harris said. “I work for Metro, but before I worked for Metro I really wasn’t a commuter.”
Darnell Burrele, a 33-year-old who works in accounting, rides Metro daily. “It’s a lot nicer, cleaner, more modern,” Burrele said. “ I like the blue compared to the old [colors].”
“It’s shiny and it’s really comfortable,” said interior designer and architect Lisa Fitzpatrick, 51. “I feel like the finishes, I think, will hold up. I think the new trains maybe we’ll take care of.”
Each car features slightly less seating, going from between 68 and 72 people to between 64 and 68 seats, to create additional aisle space for wheelchairs.
While the older cars were “backward compatible,” the 7000-series cars cannot be coupled with the older ones because they are so advanced in their technology. All the new trains will be eight cars long and will operate in four-car sets.
“I would think if they’re new things, they would be safer,” said U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery employee Bobby Beasley, 29.
Indeed, Metro has emphasized its commitment to improved safety with the purchase of the 7000-series trains.
“Safety must always be at the forefront of everything we do, and that is exactly what this investment in our railcar fleet is all about,” Metro Board Chair Mort Downey said in a press release.
Harris voiced her concern that the flooring might be slippery before boarding the train, but said it should be easier to clean than the carpeting on the older trains.
Metro will introduce the rest of the 528 new cars in the upcoming months and years, with mass production set to begin at the Kawasaki Motors plant in Nebraska. These additions will completely replace the 1000- and 4000-series trains and add a 128 cars to the fleet.
According to the transit agency, Metro’s funding jurisdictions have indicated support for buying an additional 220 cars. Acquiring all the cars will cost upward of $2 billion over the next few years, Metro said.
Frequent commuters interviewed Wednesday seemed to agree that the new system would make traveling the lines easier for tourists and out-of-towners.
Maine land surveyer Stephen Goule, 43, agreed and said, “It’s a big improvement. I think it’s great, it makes it easier for everyone.”
“We can hear that better, I know that,” Goule said in reference to the automated voice and the voice of the conductor, commenting that the audio sounded like “Charlie Brown’s teacher” on one of the older trains.
Metro said it designed the 7000-series cars with extensive customer input through the project’s Customer Design Team, which was comprised of Metro riders.
The transit agency took the new cars off the tracks following Wednesday morning’s rush hour for “training purposes” for its train operators, but they were put back in service beginning around 3 p.m., according to Metro’s media relations office.