In April, Metro put the first 7000 series train into service. 748 of the new cars will arrive over the next four years, and they’ll change the shape of the Metro fleet.

Photo by the author.

What will the 7000s be used for?

The genesis of the 7000 series railcar order was twofold: The primary reason was to expand the fleet by 128 railcars, the amount needed to operate the Silver Line phase I and II. The other reason, in the wake of the Fort Totten crash, was to replace the 1000 series.

In addition to these two purposes, Metro’s contract with Kawasaki included options for replacing the 4000 series and to allow for 100% 8-car train operation.

In July, Metro ordered the 220 cars that were left on the contract. These were intended to ensure that every train in the system has eight cars. However, the Metro Board balked at spending millions to enlarge rail yards and upgrade power substations.

The jurisdictions which fund WMATA had already allocated the money to buy more cars. However, without yard space and power upgrades, Metro wouldn’t be able to operate more 8-car trains or have the space to park them.

As a result, the Board agreed to the “Goldman Compromise.” Under that plan, Metro would use the additional 220 cars to send the unreliable 5000 series cars into early retirement. The remainder of the new cars would go to allowing all Red Line trains to run to Shady Grove during rush hours, instead of having half turn around at Grosvenor.

Note that because some 1000 and 5000 cars are out of service due to incidents and reassignments, some of the cars that are replacements are also enlarging the fleet. For example, originally there were 300 of the 1000 series cars. Today, there are only 274 in service. But the 7000 program includes 300 new cars to replace the 1000 series, so for practical purposes, 26 of the cars will be fleet expansion cars.

What will the fleet look like in 2019?

By 2019, Metro should have received all 748 of the new Kawasaki 7000 series cars.

When the 7000 order is complete, the new cars will make up over half the fleet. By then, there will only be three railcar series: The 2/3000s (364 cars), the 6000 series (184 cars), and the 7000 series (748 cars).

That means that by 2019, the new cars will outnumber the old cars by 748 to 548, making up 58% of the fleet.

However, in terms of trains, the new cars will only make up about half the trains, since they can only operate in 8-car sets. The 748 7000 series cars could make up 93 trains, though taking into account a 20% spare ratio, in regular service, there would really only be enough cars to make up 74 trains.

The 548 older cars will probably be mostly operated as 6-car trains, which would (after the spare ratio) make up 73 trains.

And because of the number of trains required to run normal service, they’ll need all of those trains. Running some of the older cars in 8-car sets would reduce the number of trains available. For that reason, in 2019 it’s likely that all 8-car trains will be 7000s and all 6-car trains will be 2/3k and 6k cars.

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master’s in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Dupont Circle. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and is an employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer.