WASHINGTON, D.C. — Since they went into service, I have been eager to get my first ride on the new 7000 series Metro cars. Actually, I’ve wanted to do that since I saw this 2012 video of the prototype. They recently debuted on the beleaguered Blue Line in and thus far I had only seen one going the opposite way at Pentagon, though I had seen it prior to revenue service going down the Red Line through NoMa. Had one come through during my morning commute, I would have been tempted to jump on it instead of my normal Yellow Line train to Gallery Place.
On Monday, the second 7000 series train began service on the Red Line. I had some ambition of catching it, but due to delays on the bus to Pentagon and Yellow Line, I did not get to Gallery Place in time. In the afternoon, I saw it arrive on the platform at NoMa, but could not get to it before the doors closed.
Yesterday, afternoon though, I was able to catch it. When I saw there was an 8-car train coming next, I waited in the hope it’d be a new one. When I saw the black face of the train coming down the hill from Rhode Island Ave. station, I knew my wait would be rewarded.
What’s initially striking about the 7000 series is the lack of livery on the exterior. The little branding it has is the Metro logo in white-on-silver with pixels which seems like 2003 design. It’s underwhelming aesthetically, but that’s apparently the point. Changing that from white to black would probably go a long way in improving the look of the train. That’s really low on WMATA priorities right now.
Sorry about the white balance, stinkin’ refurbed droid
Inside, the train feels much larger than the traditional Metro car. The seats are sleeker with metal instead of plastic and smaller, blue cushions. There is more “air” in this design. Also, smartly, the seating arrangement in the front and back of the car between the end and the doors has three seats against the wall instead of two pairs in rows. That should improve flow at stations.
The cars have improved information with a screen showing the system map, other information and presumably, advertising.
Another map, similar to ones on the New York subway, is specifically for the line with the next six stops listed and then the last 5 stops.
The audio is different than the current cars with all announcements from a recording instead of the operator. The “doors closing” tone is also different and sadly not the old school ding from the 1990s.
Performance is certainly improved over the manual operation riders have been accustomed to since the 2009 crash. Looking inside the driver area, I could not determine if the new controls allow for more subtle manual operation than the first six generations of Metro cars. I certainly hope so, but at least for the time being, the 7000 series will travel as 8-car trains under automatic train control (ATC). The performance of ATC is much better than the manual.
The 7000 series is a sliver of hope in a dark time for WMATA. The daily breakdowns, congestion on the Blue Line in particular and January arching incident that killed an Alexandria woman near L’Enfant Plaza are making it hard for even the staunchest Metro cheerleaders to defend the agency. The detractors are getting the “I told you so’s” in and politicians sympathetic to that point of view are getting elected and Congress isn’t happy. The House wants a $50 million funding cut (DCist) too, something I saw referred to as “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”
What is lost in this is that building a 100+ mile subway system in this region is an unprecedented achievement that is being taken for granted. Seeing this bold experiment, conceived and built at a time where the automobile was king and required regional cooperation between 2 disparate states, a large city with limited autonomy and the federal government, struggle so much is disheartening. The agency, the unions, local, state and federal governments need to remember the past and rededicate themselves so that these shiny new rail cars are more than just prettier places to be stuck in.
Saturday afternoon was a big day for transportation in Northern Virginia and greater Washington, D.C. – the first phase of the Silver Line opened between Whiele Ave-Reston and East Falls Church. Five new stations, including four in Tysons, one of the largest office districts in the U.S., are now in service providing greater connectivity for the entire Washington, D.C. region.
My family and I rode the first train to Whiele Ave-Reston from Courthouse station in Arlington. We were in the front car which was a little more than half full. Several people were in the very front with their cameras. Other riders took the train only as far as some of the Tysons stops, particularly the Tysons Corner stop which serves the two malls. When the train left the Orange Line tracks for the new Silver Line tracks, there was mild applause.
I jumped out at each of the stops to take a few photos, but with the whole family along, including our 1-month old son taking his first Metro ride, I did not explore. It was interesting to get a new perspective on the familiar Tysons area from the elevated tracks. The best view of the Tysons skyline is on the big curve from the media of the Dulles Access Road to VA 123.
At the Whiele Ave-Reston East terminus, there was a celebration hosted by Comstock. VIPs got to go indoors, while the public was entertained by a DJ playing a bunch of music that came out when I was in middle school. We had a quick picnic there anyway, before returning to the platform to take the Silver Line back to Courthouse.
The ride was smooth, though not as fast as I would have thought, particularly on the return trip.
Rail to Tysons (and eventually Dulles Airport) was something I wondered if would ever happen. Like baseball in D.C., it made a lot of sense, but there were obstacles to getting there. Increased Metro service is a bigger deal than baseball, but the absence of both for most of my life was frustrating.
George Mason University history professor Zachary Schrag (Q & A: The Great Society Subway) made the case in his outstanding book, The Great Society Subway, that Metro should have been built to Tysons rather than Vienna all along. Instead, the Orange Line was built through the median of Interstate 66 all the way past the Nutley Street interchange. Though recent development, mostly in the form of low-rise apartments has come to the Orange Line corridor outside the Capital Beltway, the primary role of that Metro Line is as suburb to city, commuter rail, rather than an intraurban subway. Ultimately, the Silver Line will do the same though. The increasingly urbanized Tysons Corner and its four stations will be the only ones, with the exception of the Dulles Airport station, that are not within the median of the Dulles Toll Road. The commuter rail/subway hybrid has always been a compromise to maximize the constituency (and funding partners) of Metro.
Getting this far with the Silver Line has been messy and expensive. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority struck a deal with the Commonwealth of Virginia and the federal government to build the Silver Line in exchange for taking over the Dulles Toll Road. Much of the funding (too much), is coming out of automobile tolls. Some subsidy from motorists is appropriate, but perhaps a comparatively token fee, such as a $1 a ticket, passed along to Dulles Airport flyers would have been more helpful. The partnership between two public authorities MWAA and Washignton Metropolitan Transit Authority isn’t ideal and this will never be a great deal, but as the saying goes, at least it got built.
The Silver Line has also created a squeeze at the Rosslyn tunnel which has cut into Blue Line service. I ride the Blue Line several times a week, but I have found it to be manageable, albiet more crowded. Come September, it could get very crowded. Optimization of the Rosslyn tunnels is an urgent need and long-term, more tubes under the Potomac is also needed. That will be another 15-25 years, I’m afraid.
Building the Tysons portion above ground rather than below it is a flawed decision, but at a certain point, the attitude of “at least it got built” wins out again. I don’t mind the views, but this was pennywise and pound-foolish. Will it hold back Tysons development? Probably not, Chicago seems to do fine with elevated trains and locally, Silver Spring and Alexandria have strong transit oriented development near above ground Metro lines.
If the Silver Line is to succeed, it will be in spite of its builder, not because of it.
That’s quite a journey nonetheless. The current Metro rail system is over 103 miles long with 86 stations. It can probably be done with a little luck and on a Friday when the system is open from 5 a.m. until 2 a.m. the next morning. That is until the Silver Line opens. We hope.
I like living in an area where the subway system is too big to clinch in day.
Silver Line To Start Service In April, Says Warner – WAMU
The first phase of Metro’s new Silver Line will delayed until April 2014 according to Virginia Senator Mark Warner. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is building the Silver Line and will then turn it over to the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Warner says Metro will fail to collect $2 to $3 million in fares each month the Silver Line is delayed. The project was delayed a second time earlier this week so testing on safety software could be completed. Warner says Silver Line won’t open now until April.
A letter Warner sent to MWAA outlines his concerns and is included in the link above.
Of course, Sen. Warner isn’t the one who makes the decisions:
And just for the record, there is no official estimate of when the Silver Line will open. #WMATA#MWAA
For the Blue-Orange-Silver portion, there are little white prongs attached to the station circle
Abbreviations are also being used for station names — i.e. Morgan Boulevard is now Morgan Blvd
One change that isn’t mentioned is that the line colors are different shades than what was used for about three decades. This change actually occurred within the last couple of years as the proposed Silver Line started appearing on maps.
I decided to go back and find an older Metro map* and compare it with the current edition.
WMATA MAPS PRESENT & PAST
maps not to scale
Using graphics software, I grabbed the hex/RGB numbers of each line’s color, past and present and put them together in this table:
WMATA SPECTRUM PRESENT & PAST
I’m not sure that these color changes needed to be made, particularly the Orange Line which is pretty dull now. The Yellow Line seems the least changed.
As for the Silver Line itself:
Now, Metro has turned its focus to what its chief marketer calls “raising awareness” of the new, $6 billion rail line that eventually will run to Dulles International Airport and parts of Loudoun County.
Research among focus groups and from surveys conducted this year showed that only 45 to 55 percent of riders in the Washington region are aware of the rail addition, Metro said.
That leaves some transportation and land-use experts skeptical of whether — and when — the Silver Line will meet its ridership expectations. As one of the country’s most expensive transportation projects underway, the Silver Line is seen as an important test of whether drivers will abandon their cars and ride a transit line.
The Silver Line extension being built from East Falls Church will be 23 miles long when completed. The first phase is 11 miles and includes four new stations in Tysons Corner and one in Reston. Construction of the second phase, which will run to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County, is expected to start in mid-2014.
I would like to know more about the survey — which riders are most aware or unaware of the Silver Line. If they are Red Line riders, that’s probably not too big a deal. If they are Orange Line riders in Arlington, we’ll that’s a different story.
On a lighter note, I think I’ll wait until the Silver Line is completed to Loudoun County before I order a Metro map shower curtain (We Love DC).
*Finding an old Metro map was harder than I expected. The small one I found turned out to be from Hardball Talk of all things, from last season when the Washington Nationals in a typical tone-deaf move, argued about keeping Metro open in case of late-games.
Dealing with the changes and with faulty testing of the safety systems could delay the December opening of the $5.6 billion rail extension, officials said.
Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, in a letter to local officials, said he was troubled by a contractor’s failure to obtain approval for the changes to what is known as the automatic train control system.
The controls serve the same function as those that failed in the fatal 2009 Red Line crash, and the contractor is the same company that manufactured the Red Line controls.
In his letter, obtained by The Washington Post, Rogoff said the contractor, Alstom Signaling, “unilaterally made various design changes to the [automatic train control system] without prior approval” from Metro or the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
Ugh. What were they thinking?
The Silver Line’s first phase will run from Whiele Ave. in Reston to the Orange Line between West Falls Church and East Falls Church stations via Tysons. It seems a 2014 opening is a lock now, but when in 2014?
Once the Bechtel Corporation completes the work and the airport authority certifies it, Metro will take at least 90 days to independently test the trains and tracks and hire and schedule staff to operate the Silver Line.
When pressed, Carnaggio admitted Oct. 1 would be a likely date for the handover to Metro, making Jan. 1 the earliest launch date.
“Weather has played a role in the reason the date is where it is now and we are confident the contractor will meet it,” he says.
In theory, the delay will be as little as three weeks. Having a 2014 opening instead of a 2013 is disappointing, particularly given the awful traffic around Tysons prior to Christmas.
The second phase, completing the Silver Line to and beyond Dulles Airport is expected in January 2019.
On a happier note, WMATA is expected showcase the 7000 series Metro rail cars tomorrow:
Big changes are coming when the Silver Line opens, some of them outlined in this Dr. Gridlock update from earlier in the week. The Metropolitan Washington Area Transit Authority (WMATA) discloses that Blue Line riders will experience a decrease level of service as a result of the Silver Line, but argues that five riders will see benefits for every one rider who sees repercussions.
Last month, I went to an open house about the Silver Line in Crystal City hosted by WMATA. I jotted down some notes and took some photographs. A few notes:
Increased shuttle bus service in Tysons will be concurrent with the Silver Line with current West Falls Church buses being reassigned to serve Tysons stations.
Car parking and secure bike parking will be available at the Wiehle-Reston East station, but not any of the Tysons stations. Bike-sharing is a possible solution in Tysons.
Of great interest in the long-term is that Metro is evaluating adding a second Rosslyn station that would restore blue line trips to Rosslyn with a Silver line “interface” as well. Another option is a wye from Orange to Blue.
A new downtown line (M Street corridor) isn’t in long-term plans, but height-limit revisions could accelerate need. WMATA believes that additional rail cars could delay the need for expansion for another 15 years or so.
64 new 7000-series rail cars entering service to replace 1000 series cars which date to the systems launch. Another 64 are being allotted to the Silver Line.
The Silver Line will extend to Largo, paired with the Blue Line.
The first phase of the project, from Whiele Ave. to East Falls Church via Tysons could open late this year. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has concerns that the tunnel under Routes 7 & 123 in Tysons may have experienced additional settling (The Post).
Fairfax County plans on having new bus service to the Silver Line open concurrently.
While these t-shirts (and the Metro shower curtain) are is a step in the right direction, WMATA needs to go a little further. Like many other people, we now put a model railroad around our Christmas tree. I can’t be the only one who would love having a model Metro train (H0) to circle my Christmas tree every year. While this isn’t Metro’s first priority, I’d still love it see it happen and I think a lot of Washingtonians agree with me. Here is the contact information to ask Metro to license a model train!