What I like about the new CTA train cars

The CTA has been been running in-service testing on a set of eight new rail cars on the Red Line for two weeks now. In that time I've ridden in the Series 5000 train cars five times at various times of the day. Today and tomorrow I'm sharing my review of them in the form of an open letter that I'm also formally sending to CTA President Richard Rodriguez and Board Chairman Terry Peterson:

Dear President Rodriguez and Chairman Peterson:

First, congratulations to you and your staff on getting the new Series 5000 rail cars into revenue service for testing.

We have lots of opinions on them, and as you know CTA Tattler and its
readers are always willing to share! The following are my own
thoughts, plus comments compiled from Tattler readers.

There's good and bad in everything. Let's start with the former.

Smoother acceleration and braking. I love that the cars use alternating current propulsion instead of direct current motors to drive the trains. The result is smoother
acceleration and braking. There are other benefits, as Chicago-L.org reports: "Trains also use AC power more efficiently,
lowering operating and maintenance costs, and there is less wear and
tear on the rails and cars because of the way the power is supplied.
Through regeneration, AC propulsion also offers some power savings."

5000 series aisle crowd.jpg

(Photo by Max T-M)

More "breathing" room inside. Because of the aisle-facing seats, there's more room for passengers to stand and to maneuver around and through the cars. There was plenty of room for people, strollers and bicycles: On an early morning run I saw a bike rider lounging in the handicapped seating with his biked parked in front of him, his feet resting on the bike seat. Not everyone likes the longitudinal seating. (More on that in the "dislikes" post.) But there are some pluses, including....

Stowing bags.jpg

Room to stow "stuff" under seats. The open seating along the windows allows for passengers to put belongings, such as backpacks duffel bags and even suitcases. I saw very few people put bags on their seats. Instead I saw people who previously might have
hogged the adjacent seat
with their bag place it in the open space under the seats. Even when some did put their bag on the seat, they were much quicker to move them since all seats were easily accessible to passengers.

Added security features. With seven cameras recording your every move on each car, the security level is heightened, along with the Big Brother feel. But we should be used to that by now, with so much more camera surveillance everywhere we go. A plus is that the operator can see what's going on in a car if a passenger requests help.

What the CTA likes about the rail cars. Here's what the CTA has to say about its new cars.

Coming Tuesday: What I dislike about the new rail cars.


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  • Thanks/ Just fixed it!

  • You sure that picture is "stowing of bags?"

  • The new cars suck. The seating configurations are terrible, very uncomfortable. Too crowded, it's bad enough to have one person sitting next to you, but to have someone sitting next to you both on your left and on your right is unbearable. I will in the future skip that train, and wait for a 2600.

  • I have a question about the "AC propulsion." Is this in effect even though the AC power isn't being drawn from the tracks? (My understanding is that the new cars will handle both AC and DC power, but the tracks will only do DC until every car on them will handle AC decades from now).

  • In reply to sargas:

    My research on the Internet indicates that there is a solid state device in the controller that converts DC to AC.

    The third rail will never be AC. There would have to be two charged rails to do that, and then think about all the electrocutions.

  • In reply to sargas:

    Actually, I like the sound of the AC propulsion system.

  • In reply to sargas:

    Oh, we're measuring inches now? I agree with Kyle. You people are just too bloody precious.

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