Colorado Railcar's South Florida
RTA coach 7001
It's hard not to love the first commuter coach entry from a company renowned for its luxurious dome cars. But first, you'll have to get past the towering size. The behemoth measures a whopping 19 feet 10 inches tall, nearly four feet taller than the industry standard coaches built by Bombardier. It's also four feet longer, at 89 feet rather than 85.
There's no earth-shattering technology incorporated into CRM's coach design. In fact, it's little more than a reappointed distant cousin of its luxury counterparts. Because it features a low floor, a good deal of the underfloor appliances have been moved to the roof. Take those down, and you have the same 18 foot 1 inch tall frame that the rest of the cars share. Even the massive ADA restroom was lifted straight out of the luxury cars' design.
With two full length levels, this coach seats 182 and features two low-floor entrances on either side of the car. (CRM literature advertises seating up to 218.) The middle half of the bottom level is low floor, with a short step up at either end to allow clearance for the trucks. The low floor section seats 18, with lots of additional seating area for ADA passengers. All of the seats can be folded up to provide storage for bicycles, and there is an amply sized luggage rack near the B end doors.
Like its luxury counterparts, there is all sorts of head room in the cars. No surprises there. What was surprising is the windows. While not quite the full size dome windows of the CRM ultradomes, the sizeable windows do wrap about halfway up into the roof. The view is superb for a commuter car. With the HVAC ducts built into the floor of the upper level, there is still plenty of headroom over the seats.
The seats were also plenty comfy as well. From what I was told, they are actually the same seats that were used in CRM's Holland America luxury cars, sans only the seat-back tray tables. They even lean back slightly, which was nice.
My ride on CRM's first commuter coach came at the tail end of a freight train, so it might be cheating to say that I thought the ride was good as I watched the freight cars ahead of me bob around like boats. But in truth, the car rode nearly as smoothly as the luxury cars that are CRM's bread and butter.
CRM's freshmen entry into the commuter market gives an experience that won't be found on similar vehicles. The company's past history is readily apparent, and that might actually be the car's only fault aside from its size. This is a very nice car inside, but I wonder how well the interior will fare under the daily riggors of commuter service. Put simply, a hard plastic seat is a heck of a lot easier to take care of. I guess time will tell if riders are ready to commute in this level of style.
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