When a Metro train with six cars pulls into a station, there’s lots of space on the platform where you can’t actually board. Metro is testing out platform decals to let people know where 6-car trains end, which makes boarding much easier.

6-car marker decal. Photo from WMATA.

At four of Metro’s busiest stations— Metro Center, Gallery Place, L’Enfant Plaza, and Union Station— WMATA is testing decals showing where the last car of a 6-car train will be when it arrives. Instead of needing to run from the end of the platform to the train’s last car, riders will now know where they’ll need to be to board.

The Passenger Information Display System (PIDS) mounted in the stations shows whether the next trains arriving has six or eight cars, telling you whether you need to heed the decal and move. The decal is one of the first tangible benefits to come out of the Amplify “customer community” that WMATA started back in October to receive feedback from riders. Amplify, the rider group that Metro formed to collect feedback and suggestions, helped choose the color and wording on the stickers.

We need these signs, and we may need them for a while

Trains started always stopping in stations at the front of the platform in 2009 after the Fort Totten crash, and after a couple instances where train operators opened their doors with cars still in the tunnel. That means when a 6-car train stops in a station, there’s 150 feet of platform behind the train that people can’t board from.

WMATA’s plan for the new 7000-series rail cars was to expand its rail fleet to near 100% 8-car trains by 2020, meaning trains would always take up the entire platform. But that plan has gone by the wayside. Instead of adding additional rail cars, the 7000s are primarily replacing the 1000, 4000, and 5000-series rail cars (592 total). Instead of having almost entirely 8-car trains once all 7000s are here, the percentage will be only slightly higher than the current one, which is 35%.

Since the overall percentage of 8-car trains will be staying fairly low, there will continue to be a few issues with uneven train loading in stations primarily whose exits are on the far end of either side of the platform, like Fort Totten, Dunn Loring, or National Airport.

Until the day that most of the fleet is made up of 8-car trains and the whole platform can be used for boarding, these new decals may help guide people toward where they need to be.

WMATA has tested similar signs recently

This isn’t the first time in recent months that markings for where to board trains have popped up. Braddock Road got its first look at yellow ones showing where doors would line up on the station’s platforms back in December.

Train door markings at Braddock Road station; photo by the author.

While these have been at the station for four months now, they aren’t anywhere else in the system. The doors on the 7000-series trains are not in the same place as those on the other cars in the fleet though, so when one pulls up at Braddock the doors won’t line up with the yellow markings. It’s likely this pilot won’t expand.

For the 6-car-marker decals, this is a quick and easy way to help customers know where to be in order to get on a train to their destination. Hopefully this is just one of the small improvements to Metrorail that we’ll see under GM Paul Wiedefeld, like the forthcoming 15-minute grace period and commuter passes.

Stephen Repetski is a Virginia native and has lived in the Fairfax area for over 20 years. He has a BS in Applied Networking and Systems Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology and works in Information Technology. Learning about, discussing, and analyzing transit (especially planes and trains) is a hobby he enjoys.