More details on new rail cars due later this year

On Tuesday, my CTA blogging colleague over at Going Public, Tracy Swartz, wrote about the CTA taking delivery later this year of the first of a bunch of new rail cars. Here are a few more details:

  • That first delivery will include just 10 new cars. So don't your hope high about gliding to work in luxury comfort anytime soon.
  • As Tracy noted, these are prototype cars meant for initial testing. The full order is not due to arrive until 2011.
  • The CTA will do extensive testing on all the different lines before they put them into passenger service.

Here are some key features of the new cars that former President Ron Huberman shared with CTA Tattler last year. (Note: some of these may have changed):

  • Recessed lighting.
  • Reading lights.
  • Six 9-inch TV screens in each car, rotating CTA info and advertising.
  • No more advertising cards -- the small TVs are replacing all paper ad cards.
  • Computerized Internet controls mean no more herky-jerky rides.
  • A "smart" systems map in the middle of the car pinpointing the train's current location.
  • The same number of seats arranged longitudinally to allow for more standing room.
  • A padded "butt perch" in the area where a wheelchair would go so if
    there was no disabled passenger onboard, other passengers could rest
    against the padded perch.
  • Security cameras in each car.

Also of note: Huberman told me last year these first cars would be delivered last year. So the CTA is a year behind.


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  • How much is the full order for? What caused the year delay?

    Getting rid of the jerky rides will be a plus.

  • The maps and tele-ads are improvements. Tokyo Metro and Tokyo Local Japan Rail cars have the telescreen advertising and the smart system maps, also their maps (in each car) indicate how many minutes until the train gets to that particular station. Kind of handy but I imagine it requires some additional gadgetry built into the rail system overall and that may not have been part of the capital improvement plan for CTA.

    So with new cars, can we also get well behaved passengers? Riders of transit in Japan adhere to rules, no talking on phones, no loud talking/expletives to a seatmate/entire car, no eating/drinking. Just a nice quiet ride from A to B. For the concerned readers and bag carriers: Fold the paper in half, no problem - been doing it for years in NYC. Bags are trickier - in Japan, bags go on a luggage shelf running length of car, or on floor between feet, or on lap - trace amounts of crime overall and in Japanese transit systems so nobody is concerned about theft (refreshing). It's possible to put your purse/laptop bag on your lap and fold the paper to read isn't it? Maybe it will force people to carry smaller bags with them and not to eat/drink on the train if they can't balance it all w/o spilling on a neighbor.

    I'll miss the blinker doors - last remnants of streetcar era but I won't miss getting my arm caught in the mangler.

  • In reply to 20fie18:

    You are aware that Japanese people do not talk as much in public as a society, right? That's why it is more quiet.

    As for forcing people to bring smaller bags... Making transit more difficult should not be the aim of getting new train cars.

  • In reply to 20fie18:

    I am sure your behavior is excellent, I was making a reference to riders who consider the CTA an extension of their home or car. They probably have their own blog so I regret bringing it up.

    I guess I don't understand your newspaper issue but I'm sure you'll figure out a solution for keeping your bag secure while reading when the time comes.

    You could bring grandma's trunk on a train if you want to schlep it up to the platform, I don't care unless it falls on my foot or blocks me from leaving the train. The point was that a new seating configuration may change what people manage to carry when they commute on CTA, I didn't make that decision.

    Yes, the Japanese are more reserved. Their homogeneous society is also a big difference between here and there. The Tokyo reference was put there to show that a city of 14 million manages, Chicago is less than 3 million.

    I consider it less trying to be difficult and more of the CTA adopting standards that are used in other large mass transit systems. Aside from adopting standards that have served larger systems effectively, there could be long term advantages to the new seating configuration (easier to clean/maintain, easier for disabled riders).

    Mass transit is a valuable asset and should be improved and modernized, some changes by riders may be required along the way. I moved here in 1993 and at that time the Brown Line was getting the cars they have now - were there issues as the CTA brought in that equipment replacing the Green/White Cars (circa Blues Brothers/Risky Business)?

  • In reply to 20fie18:

    longitudinal seats and the smart map sound great - it'll be great to at least be on the same level as NYC.

  • In reply to 20fie18:

    Unless the televisions are silent,I rather have ad cards.

  • In reply to 20fie18:

    I'm not keen on longitudinal seats in Chicago. The rides are long, and as long as the trains are on DC power you're going to be thrown around from side to side as the accelerate and decelerate. And while the CTA is at it with ordering new equipment to replace all the folding door stock, how about maintaining the rest of their cars properly? This lack of wheel-truing makes the rides miserable -- there's the constant clunk-clunk-clunk with each wheel rotation, the deafening noise of badly trued wheels in the tunnels, and very poor ride quality. On the rare (but not unheard of) occasions that you get a 2600-series car that's properly maintained, the ride GLIDES like a new intercity train. Something that's taken for granted in other transit systems but a rare luxury in ours.

  • In reply to dblissmn:

    Although this blog post doesn't mention it, the new cars will be AC-powered. In fact, the reason it's taking so long to get new cars is because CTA's original RFP specified DC traction which, alias, is pretty much now extinct and no manufactures are willing to build.

    The problem with flat spots on the wheels is largely caused by operators who do not properly operate the train. The train controllers have three notches for power and three for break. Flat spots are caused when operators exclusively use the most extreme notches (P3 and B3).

  • In reply to zolk:

    Thanks for your insights, Kevin. Mr. Z. also is the brains behind

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    And its members have announced that two of them have arrived.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Not all the trains running in Tokyo have the telescreens. But here is one which does. It is not a JR East train. These photographs are from an Odakyu train consist through-running on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line. You should also be able to see how the standee satchel racks are mounted.
    (telescreens & racks)
    (ads & racks)
    (telescreens & train routes)

  • In reply to zolk:

    just FYI for anyone misinterpreting this post.........the cars will not be AC-powered until they can be used on tracks where all the cars are AC-powered. In other words, they are AC-capable, in preparation for the eventual replacement of DC with AC.

  • The experts look at increasing capacity of each train and reducing the number of people waiting on train platforms for a train. Having forward/backward facing seats decreases traincar capacity, that is not a debate. What is at issue is the loss of convenience/comfort. It's public transportation not a reading room, that would be a down to earth approach. CTA isn't out there to promote reading, it's there to safely move people from A to B for a set fare in a reasonable amount of time.

    Keep speaking up - tell your Alderman, go to the monthly CTA Board Meetings, find out where the cars will be tested. Maybe Bombardier has some other ideas for seating configurations that are not as severe an impact to capacity and won't blow the budget that CTA has. Not knowing the inner-workings of the deal, optimistically there is a good chance the seating could change since input from riders was used to alter the Brown Line station rehab work (use of wood planks and canopies). Also you have last year's maxi-car experiment that went over like a lead balloon.

    Too bad about this AC/DC propulsion. Bombardier's news release says the cars will be AC but I am leaning towards what Sargas said bc I remember years ago there was buzz about cutting over to AC but I don't remember it ever getting done. If the door is open, I'll ask someone at a substation and see what the deal is. If it hasn't been done, that has to be a big capital expense too which hopefully didn't get cut. The hurky-jerkiness of the train will be worse in a longitudinal bench until the cutover.

  • I don't see what the problem is with putting bags on the floor, between (if standing) or behind (if sitting) one's legs, if one is incapable of having in one's lap, which I also don't understand.

    I've never had a problem holding a book, magazine, or newspaper so I can read it, standing or sitting, bag or no bag.

    I'd love to see people leave their absurdly large tote bags and rolling backpacks (how stupid an idea can you have!) in the store. More than one bag? What city are you flying to? Get real.

    And the size of the bags people carry is my business because they're in my way. Well, everyone's way.

    That said, if the longitudinal seats are as uncomfortable as the black-with-silverish-trim seats on buses, I won't be a happy camper, but those seats are uncomfortable regardless of the way they're facing -- they just don't have any back support. The older (but still recent) thin blue seats are much better.

  • Having come from NYC 2 decades ago, I'm familiar with the aisle facing seats and would welcome them here over the current double seats which cause added inconvenience when entering and exiting. Wider aisles are an added plus.

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