Next stop, Metro’s fu­ture

The tran­sit author­ity is plan­ning its next gen­er­a­tion of Metro cars. We ask com­muters what they’d like to have to max­i­mize their com­fort and con­ve­nience — and per­haps tickle their fancy.

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - BY ROBERT THOM­SON dr­grid­lock@wash­post.com

What if tran­sit users could build their own ride? What would a Metro­rail car look like? Be­cause the tran­sit author­ity is in the midst of cre­at­ing the next

gen­er­a­tion of rail­cars, the 7000 Se­ries, we asked trav­el­ers to of­fer their de­sign sug­ges­tions, set­ting no lim­its on the pos­si­bil­i­ties. Scores of ideas came in, some re­flect­ing the ten­sions among dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories of rid­ers, oth­ers striv­ing to make the com­mute more fun.

Chang­ing cars

Metro signed a con­tract last

year to have Kawasaki build the new cars. Now, the tran­sit author­ity’s en­gi­neer­ing staff is work­ing with an in­dus­trial de­signer to de­velop con­cept draw­ings for the de­sign. When that’s done, “we will use them as a ba­sis to be­gin to

get em­ployee and cus­tomer in­put on many as­pects of the new cars,” Metro spokes­woman Lisa Farb­stein said. Those as­pects in­clude in­te­rior light­ing, floor cov­er­ings, col­ors, seat­ing and signs. Fo­cus groups in­volv­ing rid­ers will prob­a­bly be­gin in March, Farb­stein said.

The tran­sit author­ity will break some tra­di­tions and main­tain oth­ers with the 7000 Se­ries. All other gen­er­a­tions of cars pur­chased since Metro­rail opened in 1976 are sim­i­lar in ap­pear­ance and work with each other. That gave Metro added flex­i­bil­ity in main­tain­ing and de­ploy­ing the cars. But it’s time to build cars that take greater ad­van­tage of new technology and de­sign op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Chang­ing times

Metro­rail has a mid-20th cen­tury look. De­sign ideas to lure com­muters to the rail­cars in­cluded car­pet­ing the floors and cush­ion­ing the seats and giv­ing them arm­rests. The en­vi­ron­ment would be sim­i­lar to the in­te­rior of an auto, with­out the steer­ing wheel and ped­als.

Many who sub­mit­ted ideas liked the cur­rent train car­pet­ing about as much as they’d like wall-to-wall shag in their homes. Rid­ers and tran­sit plan­ners also have prac­ti­cal con­cerns about the po­si­tion­ing of the poles and the style of seats and hand­grips.

YOUR TURN

Here are some sug­ges­tions sub­mit­ted to our on­line fo­rum. For the full ver­sion, along with some pho­tos, go to wapo.st/rail­cars, but these ex­cerpts in­clude ma­jor themes, as well as some way-out­side-the-box think­ing:

Kyle: Fewer seats so there is more stand­ing room and wider doors to fa­cil­i­tate eas­ier exit/en­try. Also, I would get rid of the car­pet and in­stead use an epoxy floor for the rail cars. Ba­si­cally, I would use the same de­sign that you see in New York sub­way cars.

Ken Clark: Even at 6-foot-2, I have more leg room on an air­plane than I do with Metro seats.

So I pro­pose to elim­i­nate all two-by-two seat­ing in fa­vor of bench seats.

Boris: Think Moscow! Lightly padded bench seats along the side, plenty of room for the phys­i­cally chal­lenged, no rugs or other al­lergy chal­lenges, plenty of places to hold on and faster load­ing and un­load­ing of pas­sen­gers.

an­drew: Mak­ing the trains ar­tic­u­lated would save all of the space that’s cur­rently wasted at the ends of the cars and also elim­i­nate un­nec­es­sary ex­tra driver cabs. . . . I also like the fact that Metro of­fers car­pet­ing and padded seats. It ab­sorbs noise in­side the train and sets Metro apart from other tran­sit sys­tems. I’m not go­ing to join the cho­rus that we should race to the bot­tom and re­duce our­selves to the level of filth and grime of the New York sub­way.

Kara Harkins: None of those seats with no arm­rests! When­ever I see one, there is al­ways some­one who is tak­ing up twothirds of the bench. That means who­ever sits on the out­side is go­ing to wind up on the floor (es­pe­cially with a jerky train).

fed up com­muter: Get rid of those low-hang­ing rub­ber hand straps! Ev­ery­one who’s 5-foot-10 or taller can hit their heads on them.

Ob­ser­vant Trav­eler: Scrap the cur­rent three-door de­sign and give the cars four doors. This

would make ingress and egress quicker and less prob­lem­atic for those trapped in the mid­dle of crowded cars. The con­tin­u­ous-car de­signs that are in con­tem­po­rary trains in Ger­many (Ber­lin and Mu­nich) would help with crowd­ing and al­low peo­ple to move through­out the trains.

Josh B.: Aside from more stand­ing room to ac­com­mo­date the grow­ing num­ber of com­muters, I would like to see more elec­tron­ics in­stalled into the cars. In the Tokyo sys­tems, they have small LCD screens along the ceil­ing edge that show ev­ery­thing from the Metro’s po­si­tion on the city map to var­i­ous ads to up-to-the-minute news and weather, even daily health and safety warn­ings. It gives rid­ers some­thing to look at when you’re packed in like sar­dines and don’t want to be rude and stare di­rectly at the per­son in front of you.

JG-wheel­chair rider: When de­sign­ing a place to have pas­sen­gers in wheel­chairs sit/park, have the des­ig­nated spots in the cor­ners of the cars be­tween the pas­sen­ger doors at the end of the car and the very end of the car. Be­cause most of the walk­ing traf­fic turns to­ward the cen­ter of the car, hav­ing the wheel­chairs as close to the end of the cars as pos­si­ble re­duces the chances of some­one trip­ping be­cause of a wheel­chair footrest.

dc na­tive world trav­eler: Make more hand­holds in more places, widen doors and make more

room to sit in seats that face the front of the car or rear of the car. Limit the num­ber of those seats so a ma­jor­ity of the seats face the aisle. Per­fect ex­am­ple: Prague metro.

Com­mute with Kids!: I would make it eas­ier for work­ing moms with strollers (and kids!) to ride the Metro. Maybe one sec­tion of the end car that had space for mul­ti­ple stroller park­ing, kid-themed seat cov­ers or wall dec­o­ra­tions, ab­sence of mid-aisle poles, etc.

Marty: I would cre­ate a car (or whole train) that fea­tured glass-win­dowed ceil­ing and sides. Then I would in­stall col­ored neon lights in the tun­nels that would come on just ahead of the train and turn off af­ter it passed.

Cliff Enz: I would add a lounge car to ev­ery train with a bar and jazz combo. Rid­ers would pay a sur­charge to ride the car.

COUR­TESY OF METROPOLI­TAN WASHINGTON AIR­PORTS AUTHOR­ITY

A ren­der­ing shows what the Kawasaki-built 7000 SeriesMetro cars will prob­a­bly look like. At left is a view of how in­te­ri­ors might ap­pear, butMetro says in­put from em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers will be taken into ac­count. The type and ar­range­ment of seats and the de­sign of hand­grips are points of con­tention among rid­ers. Then there’s the mat­ter of the bar with the jazz combo. . . .

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