Opinions proliferate on CTA's new Series 5000 rail cars

Everybody's got an opinion, especially on the new Series 5000 rail cars.

God knows, I do.

Here are a couple more opinions you readers have sent me.

From Tyler via email, who doesn't like the lack of color on the LED displays:

I just moved to Chicago last year. I love the CTA over most other rapid transit systems primarily because of its incredibly simple way-finding. That a system this large is broken down simply into 8 colors is brilliant. All that I had to know was that a place was right by (n color) line, and I could find it. Even the stupidest conceivable tourist (myself two years ago) could navigate this with ease. My first commute as an adult was cake, standing coolly through a couple pinks and an orange waiting for a purple.

Howard Red Line Series 5000 train.jpg

the new Series 5000 rail cars lack color-coded destination and train line identifiers, opting instead for the LED display. (CTA photo)

The 5000 series cars, however, with their sleek LED displays, would seem to regress back to the days of lines named after arbitrary places, their destinations. We lose the best feature of our system! As a tourist, I don't want to have to find the 54/Cermak among the Kimballs and Lindens, I just want the Pink.

Meanwhile, ChicagoRanter, ahem, rants
that the extra space created by the aisle-facing seats will just make
it more of a madhouse, with more passengers with backpacks, suitcases
and strollers.

Speaking of suitcases and strollers:
The whole suitcase problem is
really getting out of hand. On Saturday, I boarded a Red Line train
where three women in their 40s were ensconced in two seats apiece around
the door, with their huge rolling bags occupying the second seat. Six
seats, three fares. As the train got crowded toward to the Loop, some
people were mumbling under their breath about their rudeness.

I would have just told them to move. But I already had a seat on the other side of the car.

Twitter stroller rant: "The #cta has a bike limit on trains and a
wheelchair limit on buses. WHY no stroller limit? The 4 mini-Humvees
here are too many."

Great question from Meaghan Peterson!


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  • The sideways seating is going to prove to be a disastrous mistake, resulting in fights over seats along with a major reduction in seats available as the molded seats with their accompanying vertical stanchions every two seats will cause large numbers of to be unusable.
    Very wide people will take up 1.5 - 2 seats all over the trains.
    Eventually, the CTA will come to its mind & replace them with the same seating arrangement the 3200s had/have.
    This will of course cost a fortune, which they don't have.
    More incompetence from 567 Lake St.!
    But then, they don't ride the trains or buses, they have CTA supplied cars to go everywhere!

  • I agree that luggage can be excessive, but don't agree with the complaint against strollers. Parents travelling with small children have a tough time. Taking a cab, for example, is basically impossible since you'd have to lug around a car seat all day. Children in strollers aren't luggage, they are passengers too, and a lot smaller than some of their adult counterparts. So, if you figure an adult + child, and their fair share of "Carry on" items, the stroller isn't so larger after all. A little consideration of this would be nice, parents with children are some of the people who need mass transit the most.

  • In reply to redisaac:

    Isaac, I was once was a parent with a small child riding the CTA. I took a foldable "umbrella" stroller with me. I put my daughter on my lap and folded up the stroller neatly so I didn't take up more space than needed.

    I certainly want to encourage parents to bring their kids on the CTA. But please leave the "mini-Humvees" at home. They just take up too much space.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    That is a very good option, and one that I normally do too, but sometimes things come up. I have a regular stroller, I wouldn't call it "Mini Humvee" class, but bigger than my umbrella, and I'm sure once or twice I've found myself in a spot were taking it on a bus or train was the best option.

    It is somewhat like the large luggage, do I normally travel with a big suitcase? Of course not, but heading to Ohare airport, for a flight every so often, I might have a large bag.

    Finally, just want to point out that a passenger with a Bike, suitcase or stroller doesn't really have control over the other passengers on the car. How are you supposed to know that the day you need to bring your bike back on the train is the same day 3 other people need to as well? we all need to get where we are going, this stuff happens.

    How about the frustration of travelling with a pregnant wife, disabled person, elderly person, with a small child, etc and not having people give up the seats set aside for them?

  • In reply to redisaac:

    Isaac, you make good arguments too. This is an age-old problem where it takes common courtesy on the part of ALL passengers to resolve.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    what is the CTA's policy on strollers?

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Above District 2999 asked: "what is the CTA's policy on strollers?"

    I found this 2003 press release:


    And in every release about the Series 5000 cars, the CTA makes note that there will be more room for strollers.

    It seems like I saw a CTA "information ad" on buses and trains lately about strollers, though I can't recall the content.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    If that policy is still in effect, it seems to contradict the announcement urging parents to fold the stroller if the bus or train becomes crowded. Do they really expect parents to take the time to remove a child from the stroller on a crowded bus or train? I've only seen one driver try to enforce this "rule" and the parents weren't too happy about it.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    In the last 48 hours I took the CTA to O'Hare and the tube from Heathrow with a good sized carryon and a briefcase. On the CTA, where else is your suitcase going to go except taking up a seat? Seriously, am I supposed to hold it on my lap? Balance it on my head? Block a doorway and bruise people's shins as I maneuver out of the way every other stop? Part of the CTA's functionality is that it connects the airports to the city; it's reasonable that people should be able to bring their suitcases with them.

    In London, the cars on the Piccadilly line (which runs to Heathrow) have a different design from those on other lines. They have the long bench seating but then around the doors there are labeled "luggage/standing" areas. Does the luggage still take up space from paying customers? Sure. But there's a clear place for it that keeps it mostly out of the way, none of the seats get taken up, and everyone just deals with it.

    While there are definitely abuses in terms of tons of luggage or giant strollers, I don't see the point in complaining about the overall phenomenon. The ability to bring luggage and strollers on the el is an *asset*. If you are sometimes going to be squeezed into a train in an uncomfortable way, well, that's basically what public transit IS. And the only time I've gotten even close to tube-at-rush-hour levels of crowded on an el train was after a Cubs game.

  • In reply to jfount:

    Suitcases that are too big to be held in your lap go on the floor. Never on a seat.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    A friend of mine son's are color blind, so having both the names and the colors help. I was on a elevated platform with them last summer, and they really couldn't distinguish between the Green and Brown Lines, but could read the destinations so they knew which train to board.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Good point. It really shouldn't be that hard to provide names, color, and maybe even a small symbol. Square, triangle star, circle etc.

    I also don't like the new gold LED signs for this season. If making the text change colors is too difficult/expensive, I'd settle for a color changing light next to the text that helps one distinguish lines.

  • In reply to redisaac:

    I wonder if there is some reason they couldn't just use LED-LCD screens like a Flat TV or PC Monitor.

    These can reproduce any text and/or color, or any other image - and I've seen them used in many outdoor installations.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    I think the larger question is what constitutes a disability or handicap. Some passengers clearly don't think strollers qualify, and those with strollers sometimes feel entitled to those spaces.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    To Julie: You ask where are you supposed to put your luggage?

    How about on the floor directly in front of you? Or in the aisle directly beside you?

    I agree there's no point in complaining about people bringing luggage on the train or bus. But I didn't.

    I was complaining about people putting their luggage on the seat next to them, and thus preventing another paying customer from taking that seat.

    I submit people would be less pissed about walking around a piece of luggage in the aisle than they would be to know they were deprived a seat because your luggage was on the seat next to you, instead of in the aisle.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Kevin, you have to admit on the 3200 trains putting luggage in front of you works only for small bags. The leg room space simply isn't large enough for a person and a normal full size suitcase. If you have one of the little roller bags, you can sort of straddle it between your legs, but anything bigger than that and you'd pretty much have to pull your knees up to your chin! :)

  • In reply to redisaac:

    Yes Isaac, agreed. But what about the aisle?

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    I agree about the aisle, though as discussed above, it can sometimes be that 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situation where there are a ton of bags in the aisle. I'm with you though, I put it in the aisle even if it means clogging the thing up horribly.

  • In reply to redisaac:

    Isaac, I think we are proving there are no real easy answers - except to say that the CTA should probably provide a rack or something on a designated car. They should come up with SOMETHING! At least on the Orange Line and Blue Line.

    The good news here is that we are having a civil discussion about possible solutions!

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Some of the old 6600 cars that ran on the O'Hare line had racks for luggage.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    The lack of color on the display for the 5000-series is somewhat annoying, but the front lights have the same color scheme as previously (i.e. Red and Blue Lines are yellow/yellow, Purple Line to Linden or Loop is white/white, Yellow Line or Green Line to Ashland is green/green, Purple Line to Howard is yellow/red, etc.).

    I do like one of the suggestions to add a symbol next to the name, a la the Skokie Swift or the airport trains.

  • In reply to Noah121:

    Noah, that may be true but let's face it, no one know about that color sequence.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Hey Kevin, you used a term here that I, and apparently most people don't understand.

    Please explain that "common courtesy" phrase that you used??

  • In reply to redisaac:

    I finally rode one of the new cars. While they are quiet and pretty, the seating arrangement is horrid. Squashing two people between the poles can be quite uncomfortable. Why isn't the CTA more willing to listen to the complaints about this issue?

    I'm also sympathetic to parents with small children. But, like MLG says, strollers should be folded and not take up the wheelchair space.

    Sometimes people have luggage, but should do their best to move it to the side.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    One good thing about the new cars and the strollers is that the aisles are wide enough so that the parents can move the stroller off to the side and dont have to stand right in the doorway
    and btw thanks for the linkage Kevin!

  • In reply to redisaac:

    I am sympathetic to parents with small children, but there is frequently not enough room for a full stroller on a crowded train or bus. A couple of weeks ago, a man and his daughter got on a rush hour 147. He had folded up the stroller and was holding his daughter in his arms. I was more than happy to give up my seat for them. I'm less happy if someone with a large stroller expects the seats to be folded up where wheelchairs go.

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