Metro formally christened its new generation of subway cars Monday — a day before the public will get to ride on them — as a roster of D.C.- area political and transportation officials gathered at the Reagan National Airport station to extoll the safety and comfort of the gleaming, advanced-technology conveyances.
After years of funding debates, design work, construction and testing, an eight-car train of 7000-series cars, or 7Ks, will begin carrying paying riders Tuesday morning on the Blue Line. Another eight-car train of 7K will go into passenger service in a few weeks, Metro said.
Production of 512 more 7Ks is to begin soon, and funding was recently approved for an additional 220, for a total of 748 of the cars by the end of the decade, costing about $2 billion.
First, though, a bevy of dignitaries — including Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), members of the Northern Virginia congressional delegation and the chief executive of the Kawasaki Rail Car Co., which is building the 7Ks in Nebraska — got a preview ride, from the airport to Rosslyn and back.
Three hundred of the 7Ks will used to replace Metro’s outmoded 1000-series cars, which date to the 1976 opening of the subway and have been deemed unsafe by the National Transportation Safety Board.
“As a longtime car dealer, I can tell you, I believe that people should trade in and trade up,” U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said before the ride.
Addressing a gathering at the airport station during a ceremony for the 7Ks, Beyer said: “Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into all the details about the brushed steel and the digital displays and the flooring and the seats. I’m not going to tell you how long it takes to go from zero to 60. But I will tell you that these cars are smarter, sleeker, safer and more energy-efficient.”
The 7Ks are so technologically advanced compared with Metro’s 1,100-plus other rail cars, which were purchased in batches in previous decades, that the new cars cannot be coupled with the older cars. The 7Ks will run as separate trains, starting with the departure of an eight-car train from the Blue Line’s Franconia-Springfield station shortly after 7 a.m. Tuesday.
For a limited period, the new train will run only on the Blue Line — an apparent goodwill gesture by Metro to commuters who use that line. Because of scheduling complications resulting from last summer’s opening of the Silver Line, riders on the Blue Line often have to wait longer for trains than they once did, which has generated many complaints.
On Tuesday morning, “riders will step aboard the safest, most technologically advanced train in the history of Metro,” the agency’s interim general manager, Jack Requa, told the gathering. “They will find cars unlike anything else they have seen on the system before.”