Metro is identifying the new trains because they “use a different barrier between cars our blind & visually impaired riders need to be mindful of,” Metro replied via Twitter.
The new trains have raised concerns at the Federal Transit Administration because the rubber barriers between the cars leave a 9-inch gap between them where people standing on the platform can fall through.
A blind woman using a cane did just that in May at the Van Ness-UDC station when she stepped off the platform thinking she was getting on a train.
But the explanation raised another question: How is it helpful just to say you’re on a 7000-series train?
“Without an engineering degree people don’t know what this means!” @LuckyLyzzie tweeted.
We asked Metro about the announcements. Spokesman Dan Stessel said they’re part of a mitigation plan to try to address the FTA’s concerns. The FTA also wants the trains retrofitted by Dec. 31, but Metro says it needs more time.
But why not say something more useful in the announcements? Stessel said Metro is taking other actions, like making more detailed announcements at the platforms, where “we have more time for announcements.” Those announcements urge visually impaired riders to use their canes to feel the floor of the train before stepping off the platform.
Of course, that assumes the announcements are decipherable, which they were not at Union Station one day this week.
Rail Transit OPS, which monitors Metro service and partners with @Metrohero, said the announcements on the trains “[do] not increase safety or mitigate risk.” They assume “all riders, both commuters and tourists alike, already know the features and characteristics of a 7000-series railcar, specifically that the gap between these cars can pose a hazard.”
Instead, the group argues, conductors should say, “Please use caution when boarding or exiting this train,” until such cautions are added to automated announcements.
An FTA spokeswoman had no immediate comment.
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