CTA delays buying new rail cars to be sure and get seating plan right

The CTA is delaying purchase of the newest addition of rail cars by about three years in order to more thoroughly test a new seating configuration they hope will accommodate more standees than the newest 5000 Series rail cars, according to a Tribune report.

A research study by two CTA employees confirmed what we all have experienced and seen on the newer 5000 Series rail car - single seats in the aisle-facing rows of seats often go unused, and not as many standees can fit in the aisles because of splayed feet and long legs.

The researchers observed a maximum total average of 101 passengers on a 5000 Series rail car, reports the Trib - lower than the expected 106 to 134 seated and standing passengers.

So it's back to the drawing board for the rail car designers. But that won't be hard. All they have to do is look at the design for the current 3200 Series cars used on the Brown Line. That design features front- and rear-facing seats with single seats across the aisle from pairs of seats. This provides more aisle standing room.

I think this makes sense. See the Tribune illustrations for what the 5000 and 7ooo Series seating charts look like.

Chicago Tribune graphic

Chicago Tribune graphic

7000 series seating


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  • Thank God! I HATE THESE NEW CARS! I can't tell you how many times, I've tripped over feet and legs in the aisles. And I hate it when I need to sit down and the space is soooooooooooooooooooooooo narrow. Another thing is when I sit down, the other person stands up and moves to another seat where they can breathe. There's just no space to sit next to somebody.

    When I put my hand in my pocket to search for my headphones, the other person becomes highly suspicious because they think I'm going into their pocket to rip them off. (TOTALLY NOT TRUE) I'm just looking for my headphones and that's it.

    PLEASE do NOT purchase anymore of those HORRIBLE cars from the 7000 Series! This is NOT New York . . . it's Chicago! But those are the worst seats ever. And I never see any of the Board riding on the 7000 Series because the Ravenswood has the good, ole comfortable ones that make me smile when they roll up.

  • In reply to ApresSki:

    Apparently you can't figure out the difference between a 5000 and 7000. Look at the number on the cars you detest and figure out what they are.

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    I could not agree to the previous writer enough. Former mayor Daley never should have approved to have those cars (especiallly with those seating arrangments) sent here in the first place. Passengers should have room to set, not stand. When those trains were first introduce and how the seats were arranged I said to my you have got to be kidding me!!!
    And, like the previous writer, I've been on those trains now on the red line. Trade those cars in for the 320 series cars any day!!! (Hope they learn their lesson with the new 7000 series!!!)

  • In reply to bigpimp:

    Daley may have started the trend of disgovernance by the CTA, but do you think he was coherent enough to figure out seat design?

  • Your statement "to more thoroughly test a new seating configuration" is false. CTA said during the first iteration of the specifications for the 7000s that the seating arrangement would be changed to that depicted, and when the bids were thrown out and the new spec was issued, explicitly said that the seating arrangement would be the new one.

    If you want to argue with me, I downloaded the specs and have them.

    The real issue is why CTA threw out bids that were for about the same price as the 5000s and decided to make the 7000s noncompatible with the 5000s, including alternatives for different couplers, different air conditioning, different types of doors, different types of air conditioners and different kinds of third rail deicers. Maybe you can find that out.

  • In reply to jack:

    Sorry for the redundancy. Instead of mentioning air conditioning twice, I should have mentioned a different kind of brake assist.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yes, it is interesting that they won't be compatible. I'm not sure what ramifications that will have operationally, but you certainly suggest that it will make maintenance stock more parts.

    Will the 7000's still have AC propulsion or is DC listed as an alternative in the specs too?

  • In reply to chris:

    DC became obsolete about 20 years ago. CTA only realized that 9 years ago.

    Maintenance may have to stock more parts, but the workaround up to now has been to assign certain series of buses or rail cars to certain terminals. The article implies, but does not state, that the 7000s would be restricted to the Blue, Orange and Brown lines.

    CTA claimed that operation of 5000s on the same lines as 2400s and 2600s indicates that a line can run with incompatible equipment, although not on the same train. That does raise the issue whether some line (most likely the Orange) or due to expansion, some other line (such as the Red Line needing another 80 some cars if the 130th extension is ever built) will have to deal with incompatible trains. One possibility was foreseen in the specs, in that if the bidder proposed a different kind of coupler, each new car would need an adapter to push a dead train--a solution that takes CTA back to the 1920s, when different L companies used different couplers and the CERA books show schematics on how to modify them.

  • In reply to jack:

    Why would they dump the Ohio Brass Form 5 coupler?

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Heck if I know. The only thing I saw in the specs is that if a hook type coupler is being proposed, it has to be Tomlinson, and the adapter must be provided.

    As I noted 14 hours ago, the real question is why they threw out the old bids, unless it is manifestly obvious that the alternatives requested in the new specs are less expensive. A bidder could, of course, propose Ohio Brass Form 5, but now CTA is saying the bidder does not have to.

    BTW, I miscalculated on the first chance to replace the 5000s, which would be in 2042.

  • In reply to jack:

    So, it will be AC cars then I would think. I think they realized it before 9 years ago, based on this article, but maybe not quite 20. http://www.chicago-l.org/articles/ACpower01.html

    Not that I'm complaining, but it's never been stated why the 5000's can't run on the Blue line. Haven't they been used on all other lines (not counting the trial runs) other than the Yellow?

  • In reply to chris:

    Nobody said that they "can't," and part of the initial 1 year test was to make sure that they could run on all lines.* It appears to be a case of "won't."**

    They have been used on the Yellow, apparently because the Yellow is a Howard Yard pullout (and since it got third rail, can use any equipment).

    They have not been used (at least in regular service) on the Orange and Brown, in addition to Blue.
    *Notwithstanding that shortly after being put on the Pink Line, they needed an electric power jumper to get over the crossing at Tower 18, but apparently whatever the difficulty was was fixed.
    **Debated to the consternation of several at chicagobus.org.

  • It's good that they're acknowledging they made a mistake by not listening, and want to get it right.

    But it bothers me that the emphasis still seems to be on standing, not sitting ergonomics. That still makes a difference for a lot of the riding population.

  • Poor diet, lack of exercise, a special hand of (DNA) cards ... some people are just big and those seats are too small for them. (For the small minority pining for those hideous NYC "bench" seats: You think this is bad? At least our benches have some boundary suggestions. On a bench you'd get even more unused space. *Everyone* would leave space between them on either side.)

    For the "manspreading" goons (and goonettes, or whatever the female version is) I have nothing but scorn. You deserve any combination of elbows and jabs that you get.

  • In reply to Blue:

    There was an article a while back that certain people are willing to pay $6/ride in SF for a charter bus that paralleled a MUNI route that charged $2.25.

    So do you really think that the beautiful people are riding CTA? I guess, though, that your point was not to accommodate the slobs paying $2.25 to a greater degree than present.

    In the meantime, the Tribune also has today an article about the environmental analysis of the RPM North. It looks like north siders will spend another decade riding the 5000s on a 2 track operation; maybe not a problem off rush hour, but certainly on. It also looks like all the alternatives in the Alternatives Analysis are out. That, is, of course, if they can come up with $1.850 billion.

  • If aisle facing seats are bad, why does the proposed 7000 series still have 8 on the cab end of each car?

    I ride the Purple line from downtown to Chicago each day, and there is never an empty seat during rush hour. Yes, alternate seats are empty when the car isn't full, but they quickly fill up.

    The reason standing is emphasized is simply because the CTA lacks the capacity to handle the rush hour crowds. On my commute between Chicago Ave. to downtown, most days I'm lucky if I can squeeze on to the train, never mind find a seat. When I get off at Chicago Ave. in the evening, the poor riders trying to get on are queued 4 deep. Once they figure out a way to add more trains, then they can start worrying about the seated passengers.

    Frankly, I don't know why they don't take all the seats out of 2 or 3 cars on the Brown Line trains.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Last, first, the seating capacity on a 3200 used on the Brown Line is about 8 short of the capacity on a 2600. Then there were the "max capacity" cars on the Brown Line during 3 track, when CTA did exactly that, so you don't need to give them any ideas.

    BTW, your post reminds me that the CTA Tattler reported on August 2, 2013, "CTA listens to riders, will change seating pattern on future new rail cars," to which Scooter pointed out that "There are still too many inward facing seats." My point is the same as the one I made 11 hours ago--that this is not some sort of "test," but has been baked into the specs for at least 1-1/2 years, and Kevin knew it. What might be news is that CTA had a study indicating that the arrangement was a mistake, but Emanuel's puppet said that the 5000s would not be changed, even though at that time there were still about 400 to go.

    You can rest assured that if this arrangement doesn't work, CTA won't do anything different until when the 5000s are scheduled for replacement, certainly not before 2032.

  • I am not holding my breath.

  • I know it's a pipe dream, but it would be interesting to see the CTA spec out a car with 3 doors on each side. Riders hate being "trapped" in the center of the car, so they tend to congregate near the doors. If the cars had 3 doors, no one would be more than a few yards away from the door.

    Of course, the downside is that we'd see 50% more a** wipes standing in the doorways with their feet out refusing to move.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    The cars built around 1915 had 3 doors, supposedly to facilitate boarding and exiting "if the subways were ever built" (which occurred 30 years later), but the doors were eventually sealed and seats were put in front of them. The 1924 cars had doors only at either end.

    As implied by the 1915 experience, and since the length of a CTA car is limited by the curves such as at Lake and Wabash, putting in a center door would eliminate even more seats.

  • In reply to jack:

    As I've noted before, I don't really care about the number of seats, as I rarely get a chance to use them. I'd prefer more capacity and/or quicker boarding. There are 27 stops on the Brown Line. If adding an extra door could cut 20 seconds off each stop, it would cut 9 minutes off the run.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    The likelihood of either more doors or it saving that much time is probably as likely as winning $600 million on Powerball, or any of us surviving the replacement of the 7000s.

  • In reply to jack:

    I agree that the chance of getting more doors is slim to none. However, having more doors would certainly speed boarding times. At times, a dozen riders have to exit the train to allow the other folks to exit. Then these same dozen riders have to reboard the train. It can take 30 seconds or more for someone seated in the middle of the car to get to the door. If there was a door in the middle of the car, it would be a much quicker exit.

    However, it's all academic, as we're not going to see it. They simply have to reduce crowding on the current trains, which requires more frequent service. One was to achieve that is to eliminate the slow zones, which will speed the full round trip. That in turn frees up the trainset for another run. Resource utilization. The CTA should look it up some time.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    At least on this, CTA gives lip service. However, short of the complete rebuild of the Dan Ryan segment, it otherwise doesn't get ahead of the job, and such things as choking service at Wilson (and not switching the Purple Line back to the outer tracks south of there) don't help, and after they get that station done in a couple of years, they apparently intend to choke everything north of it for more construction that probably doesn't fix anything.

  • In reply to jack:

    No kidding, it does seem that they work at a snail's pace. They're working on the Ravenswood Connector (Armitage to Mart) on the weekends, but they've been screwing around on the Congress Line for years, and it still has 30% of the track marked as a slow zone.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    That one is supposed to be rebuilt as part of an IDOT project.

    Mentioning the Ravenswood Connector is the real evidence of the problem. The representation was that they fixed the line in the Brown Line project, including stuff like substations. Then they said they had to replace more substations. Then the wood rotted. Now there is this project. It sure doesn't look the the Blue and Red Line projects will be any different.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    WTF. The Eisenhower Expressway is still in the study phase. They won't turn a shovel until the end of the decade. So, they're going to leave the Congress line with 30% slow zones for another 5+ years?

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