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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Metro car redesign

Holy moly, what a flash blizzard this evening -- from drizzle to furious snow to thundersnow to clear skies between 3:30 pm and 11:00 pm. With the rapid, wet snow, 16th St. near my house was almost literally stopped for several hours tonight. Glad I don't depend on a car to get home (and would like to avoid ever having to do that).

Anyway, speaking of transit, Metro is apparently soliciting public input on the interior layout of the new railcars that will soon be on the way. The Post has a public forum where folks can submit ideas. Some may not be entirely serious:
I would remove the doors, seats and air conditioning from the 1000 series cars, and give riders a credit for riding in these cars. they would be uncomfortable but cheap to maintain, and the swiping of their Farecard would operate as a release of liability."

(The 1000 series are the first cars purchased by Metro for its opening in the 70s; the NTSB has told Metro that they need to take them out of service because when there's an accident, they collapse into each other like the telescoping legs of a tripod.)

But a couple of very obvious themes show up in the comments, which Metro should be able to act on:

1) Perhaps a quarter of the comments ask for lower handholds that people of below-average height can use. Most of the current ones are at the top of the car, and this like it should be fairly easy to accommodate.

2) More than half of the suggestions are for changing the seat arrangement to benches along the walls of the car, instead of the commuter-train-style two-abreast. I wholeheartedly support this suggestion -- as many commenters point out, almost every other subway system does it this way. It's really a no-brainer, since the number of seats is almost the same, but standing room is greatly increased. Getting on a Metro train at rush hour is more difficult than it needs to be, because there's barely room for two people to get by each other in the aisle between the seats. Not only does this clog things up as people try to get in and out of the seats and aisles, but it leads people to linger by the doors because they don't want to deal with it, further gumming up the flow.

The only reason Metro hasn't opted for bench seats in their proposed layout is that they know there's a small but vocal group of people who ride from far suburban stops and view the Metro more like a commuter train than a subway. While this is somewhat understandable, it's just not workable at current ridership numbers. Perhaps Metro is hoping that by soliciting input, they'll be able to show a groundswell of support for bench seats, instead of making the proposal themselves and defending it against the likely onslaught of complaints...

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