It was a big step forward for Metro today, as they're starting testing of their brand-new 7000-series rail cars.
These are the cars that are supposed to make us all safer. It may be the longest many have ever waited for a Metro train: 4 years.
"The future of Metro is here today. With the arrival of the 7000-series rail cars, we're one step closer to completing important safety upgrades and closing one of Metro's final outstanding NTSB recommendations,"General Manager Richard Sarles said.
Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski has been a champion of change for Metro.
"A few years ago we suffered a terrible accident in which passengers were killed, Metro workers were killed, and we said we wanted to bring about change," Mikulski said. "We wanted to bring about reform, wanted to have a Metro that was safe and reliable for the people who ride in it, and the people who work on it, and today that promise has been kept with the delivery of those 4 railroad cars."
Four cars, making up one train, will be tested.
WMATA expects the manufacturer, Kawasaki, to begin full-scale production mid-2014. Many will be happy to see new flooring and no carpet.
Actual riders weighed in on design and comfort, and even on the color.
Most importantly, these new cars can withstand a crash better than the 40-year-old 1000 series cars crushed in 2009's deadly Fort Totten accident that killed 9, and hurt 80.
NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman says the safety issue started years before.
"In 1996, we made recommendations, in 2004 following the Woodley Park crash, we issued recommendations about replacing these older cars," Hersman said. "And it wasn't until 2009 that really the public will and the funding was galvanized to replace those 100 series cars."
We asked Sarles why it took so long. His response: "We're replacing them as fast as technology and manufacturing allows us to do it."
At least one brand new 8-car train will roll down tracks before 2014 is done, but it'll take about 3 years to replace all the 1000 series cars with the new ones.