Metro's long-awaited 7000-series cars will start rolling April 14, the transit agency announced Thursday.
The new cars will begin passenger service on the Blue Line, departing from the Franconia-Springfield station shortly after 7 a.m. on launch day.
WMATA said the 7000-series cars are safer than previous incarnations, and come with new technologies that are "generations ahead" of Metro's current cars.
Previous series were designed to be "mixed and matched" with Metro's original railcars, the 1000-series, but the new cars will operate only with other 7000-series cars, WMATA said. All new trains will be eight cars long.
WMATA has previously said the new railcars are also expected to be more reliable.
"Ultimately when we look at what's been going on with on time performance -- it's really been breakdowns with the (older) cars and by replacing the fleet we will get rid of the problems that we have had," Richard Sarles, then Metro's general manager, said last fall.
WMATA has ordered 528 of the new cars, enough to replace all 1000- and 4000-series cars, and expand its fleet by 128 cars. WMATA will also be able to buy another 220 cars if funding is committed by midyear.
The new cars will have a blue-and-gray interior, and according to a WMATA release, the cars feature:
- Stainless steel car body for increased durability
- 64 vinyl padded seats and seat-back hand grasps
- Six different station destination signs, including two dynamic LCD route maps and four video screens in each car
- LCD map displays to allow customers to easily track their location
- LED screens that provide current and upcoming station information
- Improved seats that provide more knee room and better lumbar support
- Wider aisles (34 inches verses 32 inches on older cars) to facilitate movement within the car
- Additional space near the doors for standees and wheelchairs
- Resilient nonslip flooring, rather than carpet
- High-tech automated public address systems
- Closed circuit cameras for added safety and security
- More reliable door systems using proven technology
- Added handholds in the door area and vertical poles added at each seat – for a total of 25% more linear feet of bars than in Metro's 6000-series cars
- Enhanced lighting and privacy screens in the vestibule area
The project spanned nearly five years from approval to certification, WMATA said.
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WMATA began collecting customer input in late 2010, asking about options such as floor-covering material, signs and their locations, lighting and even where the handlebars inside the railcars end up.