WASHINGTON metro is experimenting with three seating layouts in 24 cars, aiming to provide more standing room and increase capacity without needing additional rolling stock.

Existing cars have 64 to 80 seats. The first of the redesigned vehicles has four fewer seats, matching 184 cars on order from Alstom. The second arrangement has 12 seats removed, and a third has 16.

Other changes will include 40% more handrails, additional seat-back poles, fitting wall-mounted handrails by the doors, and a double row of overhead handrails running the length of the car. Overhead spring hand-holds will be installed in two of the designs. Internal partitions and handrails flanking the doors and down the centre of the aisles will be removed to improve flow.

’We want to entice people to move down the aisle easily and get out of the car smoothly,’ said Chief Engineer Dan Hanlon. ’A lot of time people stand near the door because they don’t want to fight their way out.’ The designs were agreed after filming passengers in 16 cars and seeking feedback from disability organisations and a customer focus group. Filming will take place on the converted vehicles this spring, and a final design will be recommended to the board late in 2006.