Sara Johnson

Today the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority launched the first of its subway system's brand new trains. The train that entered service today includes the system's first eight 7000-series cars, and a second train is being tested. So far, 528 of these cars have been ordered, and Metro may order another 220 if it gets funding for it.

Detail of the seats.
Sara Johnson Detail of the seats.
Detail of the flooring.
Sara Johnson Detail of the flooring.
Stephen Voss The colors of the Weese-designed Metro stations.

The cars are designed to replace older ones in the system. "Every 1000-series railcar Metro replaces with a new 7000-series railcar will provide a substantially higher degree of crashworthiness protection for riders based on the design information Metro has shared," said National Transportation Safety Board chairman Christopher Hart, according to The Washington Post.

These trains also mark a shift in the design identity of the Metrorail system. The Washington, D.C., Metrorail system opened on March 27, 1976, and won the 2014 AIA Twenty-Five Year Award for the design by Chicago's Harry Weese & Associates. Writing in ARCHITECT last June, Lawrence Biemiller describes the Metro's design as we know it:

"The coffers are just one of the design elements that work their way into your mind and make the system instantly recognizable, no matter where you are in it. Just as important are the gentle curves of the concrete mezzanines, the red floor tiles, the deep bronze of the escalators, and the dark brown of the station kiosks, sign pylons, elevators, and farecard readers. (A companion shade of orange that was common in earlier years is now hard to find.)"

The exterior of these new stainless steel cars, built by Kawasaki, look somewhat like a subway's answer to an Airstream trailer. The burnt orange and red warm colors seen in so many of Metro's existing cars are gone, replaced by cool blue vinyl color-blocked seats and black nonslip resilient flooring speckled in a subtly patriotic red, white, and blue. A Metro press release describes the new aesthetic as a "customer-preferred blue and grey interior color scheme."

The new cars also include various visual station alerts near the doors, above the center-facing seats, and along the aisles, as well as digital audio announcements. Spaces for wheelchairs are called out by obvious blue flooring near the doors.

How these new cars will integrate with Weese's stations remains to be seen. Will there be a visual disconnect between the red and brown stations and the blue car interiors? Only time, and catching the new train on the Blue Line, will tell.

Sara Johnson
Sara Johnson
Sara Johnson
Sara Johnson