Max-capacity rail cars maxed out by CTA

As huge throngs of people made their way our of Grant Park Friday night after viewing the fireworks, some Brown Line riders might have done a double take in boarding one of the CTA’s three “max-capacity” rail cars. These train cars have most of the seats removed to allow for greater capacity.

These rail cars were first broached by then CTA President Ron Huberman at the first CTA Tattler Coffee with Ron more than a year ago. Then last fall the CTA spent about $10,000 per rail car to roll out three test cars.

It turns out those max-capacity cars failed the test and plans to expand the pilot were quietly dropped late last year.

“The factors were that customers didn’t like the loss of seats and an analysis that indicated if the program were expanded, the number of customers adversely impacted by loss of seats exceeded the number customers with improved ability to board trains,” said a CTA spokesperson last week. “There was also a capital cost to convert additional cars and it was determined that there were other more pressing uses for these funds.

“It was not thought to be an effective use of limited capital funds to convert them back to the original seating configuration so we kept the existing three “Max Cars” and they continue to run on the Brown Line,” she added.

So if you find yourself on one of the max capacity Brown Line cars, just know you are riding a rarity.


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  • Interesting. I've never seen one before. I'm not sure I'd mind boarding one, but I can see why they discontinued it too.

  • How does this differ from the test in 2004 where people responded poorly to the longitudinal seating? (See Here)

    Plus, does this mean that the new cars coming soon will not change seating arrangements?

  • In reply to JustinS:

    Justin, with the longitudinal seating, the number of seats was still the same as with regular seating. With these max-capacity cars, there are only 12-15 seats.

    The new train cars are supposed to have longitudinal seating. So yes, the seating arrangement will change, but the number of seats will be about the same as there are now in the cars.

  • In reply to JustinS:

    Three cars? Ha! I have seen 4 cars labeled MAX on a single run: the first two and the last two. I'd like to know what's up with that. At first I avoided the MAX cars like the plague because I do like to sit down. Then I discovered that they are so disliked that you can always get a seat!

  • In reply to JustinS:

    Mystery solved. Going back to the story about the Maximum-capacity rail cars (thanks for the link)it turns out that three pairs of rail cars were converted. Thus there are six cars which explains how I've seen 4 MAX cars on a single run.

  • In reply to JustinS:

    There also was the matter that, in the original planned conversion, if each car had as many standees as it intended, the increased weight of the passenger load on each car would have exceeded its recommended capacity.

  • In reply to JustinS:

    I think these cars would be perfect to use on heavy ridership days, such as the Taste, Lollapalooza, Obamapalooza, etc.

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