The new Montreal Metro cars are here, well, not quite here, they’re at the Bombardier factory in La Pocatière. While we’ll have to wait until Spring 2014 to see the 468 new cars, costing $1.9 billion, in action, Bombardier gave the media a look at some of the new features on Monday.

Bombardier is boasting that these cars, which they’re calling Azur, offer more room for more passengers, more things to hold onto and bigger windows. Also, the seats pull back and none of them touch the floor, which makes cleaning easier.

While most of these changes seem like moderate progress along the path started with the last change made to the interiors of some cars, there are some very interesting alterations and additions:

azur exterior
A new metro car with the accordion connector on display at Berri-UQAM metro in 2012 (image STM)

Walk between the cars

One of the most interesting features of the new design is the ability to safely walk between metro cars. The new cars are connected by what looks like the same accordion design that connects sections of reticulated buses.

Allowing people to travel from one end of the train to the other while it is in motion is both practical, say when you jump on at one end but know your exit is closer to the other, and, dare I say, potentially quite fun. It is also safer, according to a Bombardier rep on an interesting interactive presentation from Radio-Canada, because it minimizes the possibility of people falling between the cars.

Four TVs in every car

Metro cars, or at least most of them, already have screens announcing the next stop and displaying the connecting buses and train lines. They used to have ads, maybe they still do, I’ve been tuning out all but the most relevant info for several years.

Don’t think that will be an option with the new cars. Bombardier are promising that each car will have four screens, similar to those currently in use in major stations like Berri-UQAM, Lionel Groulx and Vendome.

That means station info, news, weather, the time and other bits of practical info. It also means ads, video ads mixed into the stream of info, a stream that is probably going to be much harder to ignore.

new montreal metro car interior
New metro car interior (image STM)

Four cameras in every car

There will be four cameras, covering almost all of each metro car. This, according to Bombardier, is for safety reasons.

Their explanation is that if someone makes an emergency call to the conductor, he or she, along with the security central will be able to see the situation and send an emergency team right away. Currently, the conductor needs to wait for the next stop, then walk over and determine if someone needs to be called in.

I agree that calling emergency personnel right away is better than waiting, but I wonder why, even without the cameras, someone isn’t dispatched the moment an emergency call comes in. If the report is false, then can’t the person be charged with making a false report just like when someone calls 9-1-1 as a joke?

I also wonder if the feed from these cameras will only be looked at in the case of an emergency or if they will be monitored the whole time the metro is in operation. Might be farewell to sneaking some sips of a beer with your friends on an otherwise empty metro car or doing a bit of impromptu metro theatre.

Cooler cars

These cars will be cooler, according to Bombardier. That is, they won’t be sweat boxes like the current ones are sometimes.

The current breaking system produces energy that heats up the insides of the cars. The new breaking system will convert that energy into electricity instead.

Add that to a better ventilation system, probably due in part to the whole train being connected on the inside, and we’re supposed to get a much cooler riding experience. It’s not air conditioning, but at least it’s a start.

Those are my two cents. What do you think about the new design?