Metro unveiled a new look for its future on Thursday, showing off designs for the next round of rail cars that feature hard rubber floors, video screens, security cameras, brighter lighting and more handrails.
"It's exciting," General Manager Richard Sarles told reporters. "When you look at the interior it will be totally different than it is today. We'll be getting rid of those dreaded carpets."
The rail cars, known as the 7000 Series, will hold more people -- though have fewer seats than some of Metro's current rail cars.
|How many seats per rail car|
|1000 Series: 74 seats|
|6000 Series: 60 seats|
|New 7000 Series*: 62 seats in some and 64 in others|
|* The number varies somewhat per car in the new model as the middle car in each four-car set has more seats than the end cars.|
Each car can fit the equivalent of about five more riders because the cars will come in groups of four, not two, meaning less space set aside for operator's cabs, agency officials said. But, with at most 64 seats each, they will have slightly fewer seats than the Metro cars they are replacing. The current fleet seats 60 to 74 riders per car, said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.
The new design does have 25 percent more linear feet of bars for riders to hold on, the agency said. Every seat pair will have both a handle along the top of the seats and a vertical bar. The agency does not plan to have any of the straps or loop handles found along the ceiling in some cars.
Last summer, Metro's board authorized the agency to spend $886 million to buy 428 rail cars to provide trains for the Dulles Rail line currently under construction and to replace the agency's oldest cars, known as the 1000 Series that have been dubbed safety hazards during crashes.
The transit agency has been honing the design of the new cars for years, most recently testing ideas with focus groups.
The sketches released on Thursday represent the final scheme, though Assistant General Manager for Customer Service Barbara Richardson said some small changes could yet be made.
The colors will be blue and gray, because focus groups rejected the traditional "Metro Brown" hue.
"People really didn't like seeing the brown again," said Masamichi Udagawa, an industrial designer hired by Metro who also helped design New York City's subway cars.
One of the primary focuses was to make the new rail cars safer to operate. Designers moved key buttons and controls. Every car will also have security cameras, a first for Metro rail.
Instead of carpeting, the floor will be Nora-brand rubber flooring, which is a hard non-slip material that looks like linoleum.
Seats will be curved steel to give lumbar back support, covered with a layer of padding then vinyl. The space under them will be open instead of closed off, giving room for luggage or service animals to sit.
The width of the seats is not changing. The seats won't have headrests, either. Riders in the focus group thought they would be unsanitary.
The aisle is two inches wider to accommodate wheelchairs and designated seating areas for disabled riders will be a different hue of blue to make them stand out from other seats. Video screens and signs will show where the train is along the line.
The first ones won't arrive until at least July 2013 and the full order isn't due until 2016.
Deputy General Manager Dave Kubicek warned even those timetables could slip as the manufacturer, Kawasaki, grapples with the fallout of March's devastating earthquake. The rail cars will be built at the company's Nebraska factories but they are being developed in Japan.