Photo courtesy Houston Metro and Tom Callins.
Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro) unveiled an 85-foot addition to its light-rail family. Unit 201, manufactured by Siemens, will roll into service as the first of a new generation of Houston light rail cars dubbed H2s.
Nineteen of the H2s will join the current 18-member, nine-year-old MetroRail LRVs over the next year and a half. The new units are similar to their older S70 siblings, with a little updating. The S70 LRV is electrically powered from an overhead wire (catenary) system and carries about 200 passengers per car. The units can be coupled — up to four together — for more efficient service during peak times.
Each new S70 unit is equipped with eight wide-opening, sliding doors all located in the low floor area, four on each side of the vehicle. The door spacing is optimal for passenger flow — the time necessary to enter and exit the vehicle, which can cause delays in the schedule. The design of the interior maximizes passenger space, using a knee-to-back seating arrangement and a large standing area with extra hand straps and grab bars for passenger safety.
In addition to the amplified passenger space and wide doorways, the updated S70 is also equipped with two designated wheelchair spaces, allowing priority seating for disabled passengers as well as a hydraulic system that permits height control and level boarding.
MetroRail is also responding to requests from cyclists by outfitting each new H2 S70 with two bicycle racks, located at front and rear doorways, which may make travel safer during hours when bikes are permitted on board.
The delivery is part of an $83 million contract awarded to Siemens Industry Inc. for 19 new S70 light rail vehicles along with spare parts, training and manuals. The vehicles are manufactured at Siemens’ rail vehicle manufacturing plant in Sacramento, Calif.