Metro unveils sleeker look for railcars

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority unveiled Wednesday its next generation of Metro cars, the keystone of the network’s $5.7 billion upgrade.

The new railcars, set to replace the Metro’s oldest cars within the next two years, will feature LED screens and LCD map displays with station information, as well as increased aisle space. They will go into use in 2014, WMATA spokeswoman Caroline Lukas said.

The new Metro cars will also include surveillance cameras – four in each car’s passenger area, one in front of the train and one in the operator’s room. The sleeker railcars feature stainless steel exteriors and speckled vinyl floors instead of carpet. Seats are lined with a smoother material and do not include arm rests, creating more aisle room.

“The new technology gives riders a sense of security about when they will be arriving at their stop,” Metro Chief of Staff Barbara Richardson said.

Metro police will be able to access train cameras for real-time surveillance footage, Joseph Reynolds, chief engineer of railcars for Metro, said. He added that the cameras were “important for added safety” so police could monitor the trains if needed.

The upgrades will cost $765 million as part of Metro’s six-year Capital Improvement Program, which launched in May. A total of 364 cars will replace about a third of the system’s 1,104 cars currently in service.

Funding for the project came from the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, passed by Congress in 2008.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., fought for the installation of the new railcars, and said the car’s most important feature is the addition of 21st century safety measures for passengers.

“This is what we wanted to see,” Cardin said, “A modernization of the Metro fleet.”

The District’s metro system is the second-busiest in the U.S., with about 1 million passengers weekly. It is a relatively new system in the U.S., at about 36 years old.

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