Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation, the D.C. mayor and congressional representative and regional elected officials braved a frigid January morning on the wind whipped platform at the Greenbelt Metro Station as the regional transit authority unveiled its latest hardware. Its silver-like coating gleaming, the Metro 7000 series passenger car eased onto the platform to the applause of the local officials.

“I am excited to be here today to accept these new cars coming into our region,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said during the news conference. “Our city is growing. We now have 646,000 people living in D.C., the most we had since the 1970s. We are expected to have 250,000 more people over the next 20 years. There is no way we will be able to move all of those people without a system as effective as our metro station.”

The new cars are designed to answer 21st century needs of rapid transit technology that was introduced to the D.C. region nearly 50 years ago.

“Safety is the most important thing,” Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md,) said during the news conference. “This is important because … a lot of people depend on this system for safety.”

Once integrated into the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) rolling stock fleet over the next few months, the cars will offer wider more comfort, whisking passengers around the expanding Metro network in frames that have been redesigned.

The frame was toughened to help avoid the kind of tragedy that occurred in June 2009 when one Metro train slammed into the rear of a stopped train killing eight people and injuring 80 more.

“We now see our nearly 50-year-old system becoming a system of this century,” Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton said of the four-decade old rail cars that the 7000 series cars will replace. “These cars will be the first visible response to the tragedy that took nine lives, seven of them from the District of Colombia. We will never forget them.”

The interior of the new cars will have a blue and gray color scheme and with no carpeting. In addition the seats will offer more leg room and provide better support for passengers backs.

There will be wider aisles (34 inches verses 32 inches on older cars) to facilitate movement within the car and additional space near the doors for standees and wheelchairs.

In addition, there is an automated public announcement system, six different station destination signs, including two dynamic LCD route maps to allow customers to easily track their location, four video screens in each car and LED screens to provide current and upcoming station information.

“This is an important upgrade and millstone, and we’re going to invest more dollars in the years ahead to keep this system as one of the best,” Gov. Martin O’Malley told the AFRO.

Courtney Jacobs

AFRO Staff Writer