When the CTA board approved a $1.3 billion contract for new rail cars, it accomplished two things:
- It changed the hated aisle-facing seating configuration (for the most part).
- It created 170 local jobs in Chicago, as the Chinese manufacturer will build a $40 million plant to build the cars.
CSR Sifang America JV, a Chinese company, will build 846 cars at a new South Side manufacturing facility. Prototype models are expected to be complete in 2019. Following testing, the cars will go into service in 2020.
The new rails cars will feature of mix of forward-facing and aisle-facing seats, a seating configuration designed to ensure customer comfort while maximizing passenger flow and capacity.
The design, similar to the seating configuration on Brown Line trains, was based on studies CTA conducted to solicit feedback from CTA riders on preferences related to seating and design— the first time the CTA has sought rider input on seating layout.
Once delivery of the new rail cars is complete, the CTA will have its youngest rail fleet in decades—reducing the average age of CTA rail cars from 26 years in 2011 to 11 years when the 7000-series are delivered. The new rail cars are projected to save the CTA about $7 million annually in reduced maintenance costs and reduced use of power.
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