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See Metro's first 7000 series train as it arrives for testing

This morning, WMATA showed the press its newest acquisition: the 4 "pilot" cars of the 7000 series. The new cars are safer and feature many new elements that should please riders.

All images by the author.

The 7000 series is the largest series of cars that Metro has ever ordered. So far, the agency has ordered 528 of the new cars. Eventually, WMATA could have up to 748 of the new state-of-the-art cars, which would make it possible to run all trains as 8-car trains during peak periods.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley talks to House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

Several dignitaries attended this morning's unveiling in Greenbelt, including Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, and DC Mayor Vincent Gray, as well as many curious commuters who happened to pass through. One woman I spoke to was hoping to ride the new cars for her trip toward Branch Avenue, but couldn't stay long enough, boarding an earlier train instead. I told her that the cars weren't ready for passengers yet; they're scheduled to enter service later this year.

The new cars will be significantly different from the existing fleet of railcars. In fact, they're so advanced technologically that they can't operate with any of the current railcar series. They will also only be able to operate in 4 or 8-car trains.

New features include LCD information screens and digital signs that indicate the current location and future stops.

LCD information screen.

Upcoming stops.

Right now, WMATA has received 4 cars from Kawasaki, the company manufacturing them. These cars are "pilot" cars, which will be tested over the next 8 months. Any issues that are uncovered will be addressed and fixed before the remainder of the cars are constructed. Full production on the rest of the cars is expected to start this summer.

During testing, riders might see the 7000 series pilot cars, but they won't be able to ride them until more cars arrive, since WMATA doesn't operate 4-car trains anymore. Metro expects to begin putting 7000 series cars into service late this year, perhaps in December.

When they finally get to ride, riders will find them quite different from the current fleet of cars, some of which date back to the Ford Administration. Carpet is gone from the cars, as is the exterior brown stripe. Instead, riders will find no-slip rubber flooring and ergonomic seats.

Modern interiors and fixtures in the new cars.

The doors and stanchions have been relocated to improve circulation. And because the new cars will operate only in sets of 4 (as opposed to sets of 2 with the current fleet), there is much more room for standing passengers since there are fewer operator cabs.

More space for circulation and standees.

To prepare for the onslaught of new cars, WMATA is building a new commissioning facility and test track in Greenbelt.

The test track will run from Greenbelt station almost all the way to College Park, and will eliminate the need to single-track on this segment during off-peak periods as was done when the 5000 and 6000 series trains arrived.

These facilities aren't complete yet, but are well under construction. The commissioning facility can be seen from the outer loop of the Capital Beltway and preparations for the test track are easily visible from Green Line trains between Greenbelt and College Park.

It may be a while before 7000 series cars are a common sight in the system. But by this time next year, you might find yourself riding on one.

By 2017, the 7000 series cars will have replaced all of the old 1000 series cars, and by the end of 2018 they'll make up over half the fleet.

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer. 


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I love the LCD screens, but since when does Metro say "for Branch Avenue"? It's always "TO" destination. I also think it's a bit bizarre to have the color strip (in this case green) and then "for" and the destination. The color strip is fine, but it should be followed by the line of the color in words and then "to" and then the destination.

by JDC on Jan 6, 2014 2:22 pm • linkreport

ooh! I see a problem. It doesn't fit into the stations without the brown stripe!

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 6, 2014 2:26 pm • linkreport

which would make it possible to run all trains as 8-car trains during peak periods

I thought Metro didn't have the power infrastructure to do that.

by Tim on Jan 6, 2014 2:27 pm • linkreport

@ Tim - Metro has plans over the next decade (Metro 2025) to upgrade for that. Current plans call for all 8 cars on Red and Orange lines first, I believe, and work has already started on power substations for Orange line to go 8 car.

by JDC on Jan 6, 2014 2:29 pm • linkreport

Out of curiosity, why were O'Malley and Gray there but not anyone from Virginia? Did MD put in money? Will the trains only be running on the Red and Green lines?

by jfruh on Jan 6, 2014 2:33 pm • linkreport

So the cars were assembled 7004-7005-7007-7006? Seems odd.

by A. P. on Jan 6, 2014 2:36 pm • linkreport

To dovetail, I guess they want only even numbers for cab units?

by A. P. on Jan 6, 2014 2:39 pm • linkreport

I know they won't do this, but it would be awesome after they do some testing for them to actually run this pilot train this spring/summer during off peak weekend hours.

by Jared Christian on Jan 6, 2014 2:41 pm • linkreport

@jfruh - supposedly the VA governor was unavailable because of business in Richmond. All jurisdictions are putting in money for the 7000-series cars: DC, MD, and VA. These trains, when in revenue service, will operate on all 6 colors (including Silver).

@AP - that was an interesting assembly. Maybe all cabs will be even. Cars 7000-7004 are supposedly still in Nebraska serving as models.

by JDC on Jan 6, 2014 2:47 pm • linkreport

Here's hoping the 8000 series will be driverless/fully automated so metro can sink money into upgrading infrastructure instead of funding pensions....

by jag on Jan 6, 2014 2:47 pm • linkreport

@Jared Christian: This might be a good idea to help identify issues with their operator training program. Get some seasoned veterans to operate the new cars and then comment on the training to make sure it all makes sense before we have to ramp up training.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 6, 2014 2:48 pm • linkreport

@JAG - Because screw workers, am I right?

by Distantantennas on Jan 6, 2014 2:49 pm • linkreport

So, are the new seats and floors actually comfortable?

by Gain on Jan 6, 2014 2:50 pm • linkreport

Does anyone know the plan for expansion/replacement?

I'm assuming Metro will do something like this:

The first x cars will be for fleet expansion for the silver line.
The next y cars will replace the 1000 series cars.
The next z cars will replace the 4000 series cars.
The remaining cars will be for fleet expansion (i.e. all eight car trains).

Of course, since the silver line will open (hopefully?) before the main run of cars will arrive, maybe since metro will already be operating with a reduced cushion will safety issues of the 1000 series take precedence? Should they?

And as metro removes the 1000 series cars, which are currently in the middle of mixed-set trains, will metro reconfigure trains to be single series again?

They've ordered 528 of the new cars, but they could order up to 748. What are the extra 220 for? All eight car trains? More spares/cushion?

by Jared Christian on Jan 6, 2014 3:10 pm • linkreport

@Jared - I believe the focus will be removing 1000-series cars because of the NTSB recommendation. The Silver Line will have opened months if not years before 7000-series cars begin arriving in earnest (sometime in 2015), so Metro will have figured out how to manage the entire system with its current rolling stock, which admittedly is not enough.

Metro will then begin replacing all of the 1000-series cars, which as you note will let Metro reconfigure trains so they do not have to 'belly' 1000-series cars. This may allow Metro to make train consists consistent: all 5000, all 6000, and so on. Metro has not said they will do this, though, but it's reasonable speculation. So, if you think of it this way: 8 7000-series cars arrive on site. Metro can retire 8 1000-series cars. Metro will have to pull those 1000-series from a train and then cobble together other cars to make that train 6 cars long again. It will take lots of work, just like when they bellied the 1000 series cars.

I also believe that, once all of the 1000-series cars are removed, the next step will be pulling 4000-series cars from trains/pulling entire 4000-series trains off the revenue tracks. I bet they keep the 4000 around for extra-capacity, though, because they don't have the safety concerns the 1000-series does. They just are mechanical messes, which can work in a pinch.

by JDC on Jan 6, 2014 3:17 pm • linkreport

Here's hoping the 8000 series will be driverless/fully automated so metro can sink money into upgrading infrastructure instead of funding pensions....
@JAG - Because screw workers, am I right?

for me, paying workers fairly for work they do(pensions) is one thing, and I support it. Reducing the number of workers that are used is another. If Metro can hire less than it retires or has to perhaps lay people off that is fine with me, highly qualified transit professional can find jobs somewhere else.

by Richard on Jan 6, 2014 3:18 pm • linkreport

The LCD display is hardly up with the times. It should display the layout of the upcoming station, so people can start to plan their walk to the escalator/elevator. Here it would also to be nice to know which escalators are working.

by Richard on Jan 6, 2014 3:25 pm • linkreport

@Jared Christian:
The BASE order is for 64 cars that will be required for the Silver Line Phase I. While Metro can open the Silver Line without these cars, they can do so only by dipping into their "spare ratio", which is approximately 20%. Cars that are down for routine and non-routine maintenance and testing are in this category.

Anyway, here's the breakdown. Options are numbered as in the contract, NOT in the order in which they will be exercised.

BASE: 64 cars for Silver Phase I. - EXERCISED
Opt 1: 64 cars for Silver Phase II. - EXERCISED
Opt 2: 130 cars for 75% 8-car operation.
Opt 3: 100 cars to replace the 4000-series. - EXERCISED
Opt 4: 300 cars to replace the 1000-series. - EXERCISED
Opt 5: 90 cars for 100% 8-car operation.

You'll note that Options 2 and 5 have not been exercised and add up to 220, which is the difference between 528 and 748.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 6, 2014 3:25 pm • linkreport

@ Richard - I agree it would be great to see elevator and escalator availability (and I think they plan on doing so for elevators and maybe for long-term escalator/elevator rehabs), but for larger stations and short-term malfunctions it would be very difficult to present that information in a meaningful way (L'Enfant has bank upon bank of escalators). And, these screens are not that big and are not everywhere in the car - you would have to jostle your way to a screen during rush hour to see what escalators/elevators are/are not working.

by JDC on Jan 6, 2014 3:34 pm • linkreport

"Because screw workers, am I right?"

@Distantantennas - Excuse me? Hate efficiency all you want, but don't pretend like I'm some evil guy. Me sending this reply via the internet instead of having a courier deliver it must really upset you.

by jag on Jan 6, 2014 3:41 pm • linkreport

@Matt @JDC

That's exactly the information I was looking for. I did a bit of googling and found this with dates.

Which states this order for the exercised options.

1. Base order for silver line phase I expansion (Delivery by Feb 2015)
2. Replace 300 1000-series cars with 300 7000-series cars (Option 4, Delivery by Oct 2016)
3. 64 cars for Silver Phase II (Option 1, Delivered by Feb 2017)
4. Replace 100 4000-series cars with 100 7000-series cars (Option 3, Delivered by Sept 2017)

Sounds like metro is going to expand for Phase I first before it starts replacing the 1Ks. But since the Silver Line should open in the spring, (well maybe, is there even a target date anymore?), looks like they are going to have to dip into their spare ratio until all the base cars arrive and are tested sometime next spring.

So I'm guessing first revenue 7000 sometime late summer. Then the first four pairs of 1000s are pulled from service in like April 2015.

If the schedule for these options hold, it looks like those Option 1/Phase II cars will arrive a year or so before Phase II is completed in late 2018? If so, I suspect a quite few of those might end up replacing the 4000 series a bit earlier than otherwise. Kawasaki will be pumping out the cars regardless of the timing of Phase II.

by Jared Christian on Jan 6, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

Will passengers be able to walk between cars on moving trains, as shown in the photograph?

by OtherMike on Jan 6, 2014 3:56 pm • linkreport

The LCD screens could provide interesting information, but I'm not sure what they have on the screen is useful or visible to riders.

Transfer information is good to have, but the logo at Fort Totten just shows a Y and R, rather than the bullets consistend with the rest of Metro's signage: (RD) and (YL).

I'm also not sure what the usefulness of parking information is on these.

The text is awfully small - hard to say from the pictures, but I would worry about being able to read those screens from any distance within the rail car. Consider the text size for the displays in Paris:

by Alex B. on Jan 6, 2014 3:59 pm • linkreport

And, these screens are not that big and are not everywhere in the car - you would have to jostle your way to a screen during rush hour to see what escalators/elevators are/are not working.

For most people traveling at rush hour, they know which way they are going and they know what to do if they find an escalator out. What I am thinking about is for that mother traveling alone with her stroller+child who doesnt often take metro or at least not to this destination station. They are likely near the doors and hence screens anyway and providing them with the information of where the elevator is would help everyone.

by Richard on Jan 6, 2014 4:00 pm • linkreport

Hmmmm...I like the picture showing increased interior space for people standing, but notice the lack of ceiling bars to hold on to. Without something to hold on to, we are going to be stuck with the same number of people next to each set of chairs. We need more ceiling rails. Beyond that, we need more hand straps coming down from ceiling rails for those of us who aren't tall enough and/or more floor to ceiling bars for people to hold on to. Instead of just "much more room for standing passengers" we need more viable space where people will actually be willing to stand!

by unsuckdcmetro on Jan 6, 2014 4:02 pm • linkreport

The Virginia state legislature is in session for only a short period at the beginning of the year, I assume that's why no senators or delegates were there.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 6, 2014 4:03 pm • linkreport

No. There is no gangway between cars. The bulkhead doors are for emergency evacuation only.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 6, 2014 4:05 pm • linkreport

The screen should display the next stop, upcoming transfer stops, and the final stop with ETA to those stations

The screen should show the layout of the upcoming/current station with the location of all the elevators/escalators and the exits. Where possible this will be updated to include known outages(things that broke 30min ago probably wouldn't be there, but replacement that started last week would be)

The screen should show any delays in the system, and show them graphically.

What they currently show is practically useless information. Once you know what station you are at, you should already know what direction you are going and what the next 3 stops are from looking at a static map. I feel they have just really dropped the ball on this, just putting in an expensive LCD without adding any better functionality.

by Richard on Jan 6, 2014 4:09 pm • linkreport

@ Alex B - I loved the Paris subway screens you linked to. But, I think that duty will be served by the large LED signs in the cars showing upcoming stations. So, with that job taken care of, I think these LCD screens are better suited to more detailed information, such as parking, elevator/escalator status, etc.

I agree that the logos for transfers are hideous. And I don't think it's necessary to put a wheelchair symbol next to each station - just say it once like on the maps: Metro is accessible.

by JDC on Jan 6, 2014 4:11 pm • linkreport

I loved the Paris subway screens you linked to. But, I think that duty will be served by the large LED signs in the cars showing upcoming stations. So, with that job taken care of, I think these LCD screens are better suited to more detailed information, such as parking, elevator/escalator status, etc.

Take a look at that upcoming station board. It shows number of stops not ETA in minutes. It is just another useless piece of information with fancy lights. Any 21st century metro system worth a crap would show you(from the greenline traveling south) the ETA in minutes to Fort Totten, Chinatown, L'enfant, and Branch Ave.

I am just shocked at how badly this looks.

by Richard on Jan 6, 2014 4:19 pm • linkreport

I like the list of next stops, however, the count is implied and easy for the next few and worthless for those approaching the terminus. ETA, on the other hand, would mean something.

by John on Jan 6, 2014 4:46 pm • linkreport

Why not include an LCD's for the giant maps on the trains instead. This way you could update the maps when there is single tracking or shuttle buses. The current displays seem like a waste of money for no useful info that is not present somewhere else. You could have an LCD that displays the map at the bottom with an AD at the top where you currently have route/line information at the top.

Those no-slip floors are hardly that. I have slipped on the no-slip floors before and infact the carpets had better traction on them and were better at being a no-slip floor than the new floors.

With the upcoming display; how does it look from the floor on the car as the picture was taken from the ceiling and not below ?

by kk on Jan 6, 2014 4:49 pm • linkreport

Christ people, the LCD screen just shows a mock-up of something WMATA could put on there; they can be programmed and content can be updated to show almost anything!

by MLD on Jan 6, 2014 4:51 pm • linkreport

+1 MLD.

Also, Metro intends to install a wayside signal system at its railyards and eventually throughout the system so that a) information can be transmitted from the train to control (diagnostic information on the fly) and b) information can be transmitted to the train (such as updates for these screens).

I really worry about the 'up time' of screens and that is one reason I would not want to replace the maps with huge LCD panels. Half the time the 'next station' displays in the current trains do not work (though I am told that is because of the mixing of different models).

by JDC on Jan 6, 2014 5:01 pm • linkreport

All of the photos were taken from eye level where I was standing (I'm 6'0"). I didn't stretch the camera over my head.

I suspect due to the angle that the FIND system is probably easier read from a seated position.

by Matt Johnson on Jan 6, 2014 5:26 pm • linkreport

Is there a video of them running anywhere???

by Matthew Huerta on Jan 6, 2014 5:33 pm • linkreport

These carpetless cars are a HUGE improvement over the existing railstock both functionally and visually.

But they're still behind the times compared to the 'open concept' trains other cities are using - check it out:

by Capt. Hilts on Jan 6, 2014 5:43 pm • linkreport

The "open concept" that you're referring to is most commonly called an articulated railcar.

Switching to such a design would be a fairly radical departure from the way that Metro operates and performs maintenance, since it becomes much more difficult to decouple the cars. Apart from the obvious drawback of the "seamless" interior space, each car shares a bogie (set of wheels) with the car adjacent to it, which means that the cars can't simply be unhooked when one requires maintenance.

(For this reason, American railroads have been hesitatnt to operate articulated railcars in general, while they have gradually become the norm elsewhere around the globe)

I maintain that Metro should have transitioned to an articulated design with the 7000 series, given the ongoing capacity concerns. However, did have valid reasons for the more conventional approach that they selected. They'd have to have built a completely new set of maintenance facilities if they wanted to move to an articulated design.

You can also add me to the chorus that Metro should have fully-automated operation as a long-term goal. Given that something like ~80% of train operators have been on the job for less than 5 years, it seems entirely plausible that the transition could simply be made through attrition. No need to screw over any employees...

by andrew on Jan 6, 2014 6:09 pm • linkreport

Oh, and you can add me to the very small list of people who will miss the carpeting. IMO, the current uncarpeted cars feel far more sterile, and are much louder than the rest of the fleet.

Metro and BART are much more "pleasant" systems to ride in than the NYC Subway, especially when you consider that Metro's average trip length is way longer. Comfort matters if you want people to use transit.

by andrew on Jan 6, 2014 6:11 pm • linkreport

The "open concept" that you're referring to is most commonly called an articulated railcar.

Sometimes it is, but articulation is not required.

A continuous space between the railcars is an open gangway. You can have open ganways with or without articulation (cars sharing a bogie).

Toronto's new subway cars are configured in max-length trainsets (six cars), all with open gangways between the cars - but the cars themselves are not articulated.

Here's an exterior picture showing the enclosure for the open gangway, with the two separate bogies clearly visible:

As you note, they are indeed the norm for new rolling stock around the globe (open gangways and articulation are common in many LRVs in use in the US as well). I hope their introduction into North America with the Toronto Rockets will help advance their adoption in the US.

by Alex B. on Jan 6, 2014 6:26 pm • linkreport

The black just doesn't compliment the stations like the bronze-brown. Period. And aside from the fact they look at a glance almost exactly like a NYCT R-160 and I hate those tacky star burst graphics, they aren't that bad. Keeping the brown front ends and window line stripe would have gone a long way.

by NFA on Jan 6, 2014 6:27 pm • linkreport

The last I saw:

Metro has already "maxed out" the order for a grand total of 748 railcars.

by Eric on Jan 6, 2014 7:25 pm • linkreport

+1 to the comment about the need for overhead bars.

by grumpy on Jan 6, 2014 7:45 pm • linkreport

1) The plexiglass by the doors should be floor to ceiling, as the smaller model shown would allow rain the enter and wet the first seats

2) Doors should be passenger activated

3) The area by the door shows no where to grab on to

by JJJJ on Jan 6, 2014 7:56 pm • linkreport

+1 MLD

by alurin on Jan 6, 2014 10:11 pm • linkreport

Anyone else notice the new system map?

by Michael on Jan 6, 2014 11:16 pm • linkreport

@Matthew Huerta

Prototype set departing Greenbelt platform northbound track E2

Video was shot at the same time Matt took his pictures.

by Sand Box John on Jan 7, 2014 1:26 am • linkreport

Can not tell what color the lighting is but people get depressed with blue or harsh lighting. Check that out before accepting delivery (please).

by AndrewJ on Jan 7, 2014 6:28 am • linkreport

The new cars are more resistant to crashes,,,great, if that's true, and the reason for upgrading, no one should ever ride this unsafe system...they need to change the God awful door announcement and banging Marimba tones,,so miserable.WMATA the filed transportation authority that ate all the green space to make store fronts for McDonalds and Payless Shoe

by Daniel Wolkoff on Jan 7, 2014 6:28 am • linkreport

Will they smell like NYC subway cars too?

by crin on Jan 7, 2014 7:44 am • linkreport

People are forgetting what the main component of those LED screens is going to be... ADVERTISING! Think those screens you run into at various gas pumps around the area.

by jj on Jan 7, 2014 9:11 am • linkreport

@ Daniel - Metro has NOT changed the announcements. The current 'door closing', 'stand clear of the doors' and the three chimes stayed the same. BUT Metro is using a new voice for them. Metro is also using this new (*female) voice for the pre-recorded station announcements. Sadly no one took video of this during the event, but people reported on it.

by JDC on Jan 7, 2014 9:20 am • linkreport

@ jfrh:Out of curiosity, why were O'Malley and Gray there but not anyone from Virginia?

Yeah, that is sad, considering the Silver Line is in VA. I can imagine that the governor (4 days left, bye bye) will use the transition as an excuse as he hates metro anyway. But what about our Congressional folks? MIA.

by Jasper on Jan 7, 2014 9:31 am • linkreport

The new cars look great! Can't wait to see and ride them in person later this year. Hopefully the overdue Bombardier MARC bilevels show up soon as well.

On a side note, I hope Sen. Mikulski took a good look across the station parking lot at where the new FBI headquarters will be located (if common sense prevails). She really needs to push hard for it.

It was pretty odd that the guest list was stacked with high-level officials from the Feds (FTA, NTSB), MD (Gov O'Malley, both Senators, Rep. Hoyer, and PG Co Executive Baker), DC (Mayor Gray, Rep. Holmes-Norton), Kawasaki, and of course Metro, but not a single politician from VA. The highway-loving Richmond pols hate Metro, but what about the NoVa congressional delegation or even county officials??? The first set of cars are technically for the Silver Line.

by King Terrapin on Jan 7, 2014 11:22 am • linkreport

@andrew Comfort matters if you want people to use transit.

If you want people in the suburbs to ditch their car and ride in a vehicle with (*gasp*) other people, yeah, having a carpet might help. But if you're just trying to get around the city you live in, no one cares.

It's trying to appeal to the suburban constituency that's led to an overextended system. That same mentality has ruined this opportunity to drastically redesign these cars, including having four sets of doors per car side and replacing the terrible transverse seating with bench seating, allowing for a much less cramped ride.

by LowHeadways on Jan 7, 2014 2:12 pm • linkreport

The electronic sign on the inside showing the upcoming stations is the same as that on the newest New York City subway cars, and it works well. NYC seating is all bench (longitudinal) and it works far better when the car is crowded - no climbing over anyone to get in or out, and lots more room for standees. It actually doesn't take away that many seats.

by carletonm on Mar 24, 2014 11:13 pm • linkreport

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