Metro held a “signing ceremony” at Union Station earlier this month to announce the purchase of at least 64 new subway cars—with an option to buy a total of 282—from a Chinese company. The $178 million deal ($678 million if Metro eventually goes with the larger order) means fresh trains will be in service by 2021, and will help the transit agency populate the coming Purple Line extension to Beverly Hills, opening in 2023.
Metro’s announcement was short on details, but offered a rendering of the coming cars from the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (part of the subway car production will occur in Massachusetts, as well as near L.A.). The vehicles look similar to what’s already in service on the Red and Purple lines that serve DTLA, Hollywood, NoHo, and Koreatown, with two-seaters lined up behind each other on either side of the trains and and handicapped seats facing the interior.
L.A.’s subway cars are much different than those used in cities like Toronto and New York; the latter city just announced this week its own mammoth purchase of subway cars. The other systems have seats that all face the interior—directing riders to face each other—and New York will soon offer subway cars with open gangways, meaning you can easily move from one car to another like on an Amtrak train.
While unimpeded movement sounds like a pleasant option and allows more room for commuters, Gothamist bemoaned this change and referred to them as “human centipede” cars, saying the set-up will lead to noxious smells traversing the entirety of the subway cars and making it impossible to escape, even at stops. Interestingly, L.A.’s Metro is on the process of adding deodorizers to all subways cars, which emit a slight lavender vanilla scent.
It’s hard to argue with the other additions to NYC’s subway cars, which includes WiFi (supposedly coming to L.A.’s underground trains), wider doors for easier boarding and exits, and digital displays, which our current trains lack.
The L.A. rendering does show dedicated space for bikes, something already offered on our current fleet of subway cars, but inconsistently offered on light rail trains. Nothing like getting a bike handle in the gut.