How to have your say on CTA's new rail cars

As the CTA continues to test "a new generation of "L" cars,"I was wondering what formal mechanism the transit agency would use to get customer feedback on the Series 5000 rail cars. For instance, there has been little love for the aisle-facing, longitudinal seating. See my post and comments.

Well, it turns out there is no "formal" way for riders to comment on the new cars, such as a public hearing. But a CTA spokesperson said, "Customers always are welcome to submit their comments regarding anything
relating to CTA service. Call 1-888-YourCTA or email to"

5000 series aisle crowd.jpg

Photo by maxtm

The spokesperson also noted that "customer input on the aisle facing seat concept was evaluated long before the CTA went out to bid."
Here's her say on the issue of feedback and why the CTA is using the aisle-facing seating:

"In 2004, prior to seeking a vendor to manufacture new rail
cars, CTA reconfigured seating on two 3200 Series cars and operated
them in regular service in order to get customer feedback. During the
test period, promotional signs were posted on the reconfigured rail cars
to encourage customers to provide feedback on the new cars.

"With the growth in ridership, CTA considered the benefits of the
aisle-facing seating such as space for an additional wheelchair
position, more room for customers with strollers, backpacks and luggage
and more space for customer movement and for standing customers. The
added space is especially important during periods when the trains are
more crowded such as during rush hour and for large crowds attending
events in the City. Customer comments from the test period also were
considered. In addition, rail systems throughout the country were using
aisle-facing seating for more space and customer comfort."

So, it sounds like the longitudinal seating is here to stay. But hey, if
you have an opinion, share it with the CTA -- on this or any other


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  • I'm still amazed that so many people are upset at what's clearly a much better seating arrangement (aisle-facing, that is).

    Yes, you have to sit next to somebody on both sides. And yes, you might be forced to (gasp!) look at another human being as you ride. But the benefits of this arrangement (more space for standing passengers during rush hour, fewer opportunities for seat hogs to block access to open seats, more motivation for riders to move in past the door area, etc.) by far outweigh any negatives.

    Just give them a chance before you start criticizing anything new - people in New York seem to get by just fine with these seats. I really hope the CTA doesn't give in to these shortsighted complaints.

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    You have it backwards, the seat hogs will be even worse with this idiotic arrangement.
    Where now, they can only take up 2 seats, with sideways seats, they will take up 3.
    And anyone who thinks people will move past the doors is living in Dreamland!
    And New York is different, most of its system is in tunnels.
    Nothing to see out the windows!

    And in what dept. at the CTA do you work in?

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Right...anybody who supports a more open, more spacious and more mobility-friendly arrangement works at the CTA.

    First, I disagree with your claim that this will make seat-hogging worse. People typically only carry so many bags, so I doubt that many riders would ever cover three seats. More importantly, since the seats won't be blocked by the rider (as in the current arrangement), I'd guess that standing riders will be much more likely to demand open seats now.

    Secondly, I don't think that the view should have much weight in determining the arrangement of seats - I'm fairly sure that New York's rationale isn't the lack of sights. Moreover, don't the aisle-facing seats make it easier to look outside (you don't even have to turn your head!)?

    Finally, I don't think you addressed either of my other two points. Why should sight-seeing out of a train be prioritized over rider comfort? The new arrangement will fit more people and mitigate the rampant door-bunching we have now. I'll give up the semi-privacy of front-/back-facing seats for a more comfortable rush hour any day.

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    Interesting that you don't deny that you work at the CTA!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Scooter, I gotta say I see no indication that AB works at the CTA. Certainly the fact that he/she likes aisle-facing seats is no proof.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    You will note that he/she didn't deny it.
    In fact the first line was an attack on me for suggesting that, but no denial.
    A very curious omission!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    My problem with the longitudinal seating is it doesn't seem to give too much extra space in the aisle. The CTA's fleet seems to just be narrower than the MTA's, although the blinker-door cars on the Blue Line seem to be as wide as any NY subway car.

    The most troubling thing is that even though they're brand new, the 5000-series cars seem to be more dated than the R142 fleet that launched on the Lexington Ave Line over 10 years ago. Is it that tough to get LCD maps above the doors instead of that half-assed lite brite thing in the middle of the car?

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    Who cares about NYC? They need to fix their trains to be more like ours.

    You are totally wrong about the view not being a consideration. It is a significant contributor to rider comfort, and the argument that somehow looking through the window across the aisle is somehow equivalent to looking through the window 12 inches from your face is plain stupid.

    The door bunching is just human behavior - it will continue because of people taking short trips that just want to be near the doors, just like in NYC.

    Do you ever really ride these trains?

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    I just returned from Boston, and the T there has longitudinal seating. I agree that it's much, much better on crowded trains.

    What I was most impressed about was that after many T rides, not once did I encounter anybody standing in front of or blocking the door. It was amazing. Of course, they also don't put a wall that's handy to lean on right next to the door. If memory serves on the new CTA cars, they still have that wall on at least one side of the door. That's just dumb.

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    My experience in riding on the test cars is the plain fact - a lot of people are bigger than the allotted seat space. So seats go unused. I would prefer a straight bench so people could take up the space they need, and then squeeze another person in there.

    However, I do like it that people can put their bags under the seats.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    But that isn't a problem caused by aisle-facing seating. That's a problem caused partly by the seats being too small for obese Chicagoans but mostly by obese Chicagoans.

  • In reply to BobS:

    You are right Bob. But we could acknowledge and account for the problem by using the bench seating...

  • In reply to BobS:

    Then you tell the homeless to sit up. It's really not that difficult.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Have you tried it?

  • In reply to madrich:

    Yes. I've been grumbled at, but they sit up.

  • In reply to madrich:

    Finally got to see what all the fuss is about. Liked the smoother, quieter ride, not to mention the new train smell. Since it was 7:30pm heading into downtown on the Blue, it wasn't crowded I had no gripe with the longitudinal seating. I can see how it might be a challenge at rush hour. My classmate who just moved here from New York thinks the griping is nuts, but admits the seating could be a problem since the cars are narrower than NYC's.

  • In reply to BobS:

    And that is a good reason to not address the reality of the situation?

  • In reply to BobS:

    It's not as though we've never had longitudinal seats in CTA L cars before. Some of the 4000 series cars built by the Cincinnati Car Co. in 1914 had them. They operated until the mid 1960's. I rode them frequently on the Douglas-Milaukee and Ravenswood lines. Oops, the Blue Line and Brown line.

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    You forgot the last part of the quote from the CTA.

    The spokesperson also noted that "customer input on the aisle facing seat concept was evaluated long before the CTA went out to bid."

    After throrough disregard for those considerations we went ahead and did it like we wanted without any real consideration for the safety and comfort of our customers....


  • In reply to KevinB:

    "The spokesperson also noted that "customer input on the aisle facing seat concept was evaluated long before the CTA went out to bid.""(KevinB)

    Did they get negative feedback from the earlier test?

  • In reply to KevinB:

    I dislike sitting sideways on the train, but I'll get over it. Because it's true, there's lots more room for standing customers in the new cars.

  • In reply to KevinB:

    "Customers are always welcome to submit"--the rest of the sentence doesn't count.

    They may have considered the benefits, but they definitely ignored the drawbacks.

    Some people talk as though being more like New York in any respect is automatically good. If I wanted to live in New York, I'd already be there.

    When you put a bag under the seat, is it easy to protect from thieves?

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Yes - it is. It's directly under your feet with a wall behind it. Can't imagine it being much safer...

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    CTA: "Shut up and give me your money!"

  • In reply to KevinB:

    Yeah, the homeless will now take four (4) horizontal seats [or more]to lay down-on and sleep from other passengers!!1

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