CTA authorizes spending $550 million on 406 new rail cars; $674 million total buy

I admit it. I’m suffering from CTA service cuts burnout. So it was great that the CTA board met Wednesday and acted on a couple topics near and dear to my heart — the new train cars and CTA safety. Next week we’ll discuss safety.

But first, the board approved an ordinance to issue revenue bonds that will allow the CTA to buy 406 new rail cars. Put in another context, 406 train cars would be enough to make up about 50 eight-car train runs, and or about 101 four-car train runs.

The total cost is $674 million, or almost $1.7 million per rail car. Yeow! And the CTA has options to buy another 300 from the manufacturer, Bombardier Transit Corp. in Bensalem, Pa. The CTA will pay $550 million. The Federal Transit Administration and the Illinois Dept. of Transportation also kicked in some capital cash for this big buy.

It will take two to three years to build and deliver the cars. Some features of the new train cars, according to the press release:

The new rail cars–the prototypes of which are undergoing testing on
CTA’s system–have upgraded features such as security cameras,
aisle-facing seating and AC, or alternating current, traction motor
propulsion.  Using the AC system will allow the agency to reduce the
costs associated with maintaining the outdated DC (direct current)

CTA Tattler reported details on these new rail cars four years ago. Check that out. And see the continuation for photos.

Here’s a not-too-revealing photo of one of the 10 already delivered and in test mode now. Photo by esotericus.


And the Tribune has this interior shot (CTA photo by Irwin Davis):

interrior new rail cars.jpg

In general, I support longitudinal (aisle-facing) seating. The number of seats is the same, and it should be easier on standees to maneuver. But I do worry about seat hogs taking up even more seats than they do now.

For instance, what if we have legs-wide-spread-man sitting near really-big-guy and doofus-with duffle-bag-on-the-seat. That could wipe out six or seven seats in a row. I say we have to stand up for our rights to those seats and challenge them all.

Except maybe really-big-guy. He can’t exactly put his extra 150 pounds on his lap or the floor.


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  • As I mentioned yesterday, if sales taxes are pledged to these bonds (not FTA or Capital Bill money), and sales taxes are insufficient to sustain the former service level, and may be pledged to pay off Quinn's RTA bonds, when can service be restored?

    CTA says that it programmed this bond issue, but based on what assumptions?

    I don't have a problem with bonding for a capital project, but at least with the Tollway you know there is a revenue stream. In this case, are the riders being held hostage to all the other places the sales tax revenue is being pledged?

  • The interior photo looks like a "seating test" car from last year. It has the seating gaps near the doors and the older/current roll up signs. The exterior shot of the new test cars have the electronic signs w/o a color designation.

    BTW, it's bad enough trying to make out the difference between dark purple and brown on inbound "Loop" signs now, but with no colors for signs in the future, perhaps some thought could be given to identifying inner loop trains vs outer loop trains.

  • In reply to JohnT:

    The lack of colored signage will make navigating the system more difficult for tourists and novice riders in particular. For example, you won't be able to tell someone at Adams/Wabash to "take the Brown Line" to get to Merchandise Mart if the Brown Line train no longer identifies itself as such! This move essentially renders the entire color system useless.

    At least Huberman's designs would have included an LED lightbar to identify train colors, but those have been thrown out the window along with every other design change that would have made these cars look like they were built in the current century.

  • In reply to JohnT:


    Your summary is misleading. "Put in another context, 406 train cars would be enough to make up about 50 eight-car train runs, and about 101 four-car train runs." Don't you mean OR, not AND?

    I hope it is just the picture, but I can't tell what color that sign is? It's disappointing that many of the new ideas for these train cars were not implemented, like LED color signs for the outside. Kind of like a bus. This would be so much better. Or the drop down seat (like The Tube) that offers an extra seat when the train is not crowded, or for handicapped people. Also, can't they update the interior color scheme or seat design? They look like the same ones we already have. I'm not talking about the longitude/latitude seating, I mean the same beige interior color all over the inside of the train. Can't we do better?

  • In reply to chris:

    Chris, can you be my editor? You're right about or vs. and, and I changed the post.

  • In reply to JohnT:

    The "seating test" seems confirmed by that the side signs are the current roll type, while the ones on the same part of the exterior are the digital ones.

    Since the picture is acknowledged to come from the Tribune, where I also saw it, it again says something about the Tribune's standards.

  • In reply to jack:

    Despite the appearance of the signs in the interior photo, that shot is indeed of a 5000. This is confirmed by the difference in floor type (the uncovered portions are black instead of brown), the lack of faux wood paneling (the one 1970s design aspect they managed to eliminate), and the number at the far end of the car which appears to read 5016.

  • In reply to zolk:

    Lets be real here, the Brown and Orange Lines aren't getting these cars. They have the newest cars on the system. It'll be heading to Blue (which has a 326 car requirement to operate) and Green since they have the oldest fleet. I doubt all of the cars are going to the Blue since maybe half of the cars are 2200s. I can only speculate that the rest will probably be distributed among the Green (just as old 2400s) and Red (can always use spare cars) Lines.
    I guess one way around the destination sign on the elevated lines is if the LED signs can have multiple rows so the top row has the line color and the bottom has the destination.

  • In reply to ibright05:

    Commented on the wrong post. Wow, I need to go back to bed.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, I got the photo from the Tribune's Web site, but please note it's NOT a "Tribune" photo -- photo credit is to the CTA.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Reading again, I did see the "CTA Photo by..." So, sorry.

    I also downloaded and blew up the picture, and Kevin Z's argument can be made that it says 5010 to the left of the back door. I thought perhaps the green stripes were the "emergency evacuation LEDs," but on blowing it up, that is clearly tape holding down brown paper protecting the floor. Still, however, no clear indication that the LED destination signs on the inside, that were portrayed in CTA PowerPoint drawings a couple of years ago, are there, although there certainly is a window in the inside of the sign box.

    BTW, the Tribune article about it today is essentially the CTA Press Release, but, as MK pointed out 6 months ago, one wouldn't expect attribution for that.

  • In reply to jack:

    I can't tell for sure, but in the exterior picture, is there a second illuminated forward-facing "95th" on the inside window of the far side of the car? The poles on the inside of the car seem to negate the possibility that it's a double reflection of the outside sign.

  • In reply to jack:

    While at the North Main Line Open House I spoke to an official there that said the new trains will have illuminated signage for the maps, and something that will show where the train currently is located, which is quite helpful for people who don't know where they are (ie. tourists).

  • In reply to jack:

    Kevin - how do you rationalize the 'stinky' people factor - which now means they may have an entire row or extra seat or two on either side of them depending on their strength and rail car ventilation.

    Still though ...

    1. Some people will never change, latitudinal or longitudinal seating be damned.
    2. Some overweight people who struggle in the coach section of the airplane may just stand for their trip rather than squish.
    3. Some big boned people who struggle in the coach section of the airplane may just stand for their trip rather than contort themselves into a human pretzel.
    4. Average boned and weight people will probably go 50/50 on sitting vs standing depending on whether they want to get close to their fellow riders.
    5. Hopefully the kiddos and elderly will benefit; handicapped seating appears to be accomplished the same way it is now.

    While the new cars aren't perfect, we are getting some new stuff and that should be cause for celebration any day right? It's the little things, whether I can sit or not is almost secondary to riding in a car older than me.

  • In reply to jack:

    Aisle facing seats are going to be a disaster here.
    I always see people in the aisle facing seats on the L using both seats & some of them don't give a damn about anyone else.
    This isn't a system where most of it is underground & there isn't anyone on the trains to enforce the rules on taking up more than one seat.
    People get arrested in NYC for putting their bags on a seat, not here!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    When seats are in pairs, if your body is too wide to fit completely within it--and you don't have to be fat for this to be the case--you can still sit and the rest of you can spill over in the space next to the window or into the aisle. But if there is a seat on each side of you, what are you supposed to do?

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Very good point CCWriter. That's why I'm lukewarm in support. But it certainly will be easier for those standing.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I don't understand how the proportion of the system underground has anything to do with the seating configuration. Care to enlighten me?

  • In reply to jonkeane:

    There's nothing to see when you're underground as opposed to looking out the window when you're above ground or at grade.
    Longitudinal seating will also make it easier for the homeless to stretch out & sleep.
    I've been on the new buses that have mostly longitudinal seats & they're horrible. Sometimes you're not sure where you're going to get off & need to see where you are & the front display of the next stop doesn't cut it.

    A truly bad idea from people that never ride buses & trains, but use CTA supplied cars to get around!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:


    I know you are a regular poster on here so I'm not trying to rock the boat, but I disagree with you.

    I've ridden trains across the US, Europe and Asia and seen aisle facing seating work fine. Often times I have to fight my way onto a brown line train during rush hour because standing riders are unable or unwilling to to head into the middle of the car. I believe this is because they feel trapped and find it difficult to exit the cars when their stop comes. If the train had a wider aisle, it would not be nearly as difficult to get around other passengers and get off the train. I also can't stand that so many riders, in the current seating configuration, choose to sit in the aisle seat of the front facing seats and force you to get their attention "o really? you didn't realize there were other people on this train who might also like to sit down?". If you do get their attention half the time they'll expect you to climb over them to take the window seat. With aisle facing seating, especially when it is continuous bench, this is much less of a problem as they will find it much hard to defend a seat in the middle of a bench, a no bench seat is better than another. Overly large passengers, homeless people etc. are problems regardless of and independent of the seating arrangement.

    Personally I'd like the aisle seating to be one continuous bench, as opposed to these defined seats. I'd also like the city to get rid of the divider walls that line each side of the doorway, these seem to be a major cause of the congestion and difficulty exiting the trains that I described above. My favorite trains are the Hong Kong MTR, they are very clean and extremely easy to enter/exit.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I'm not a keen fan of longitudinal seating on transit vehicles. But many Chicago "L" cars, including steel ones built in the 1910s (which survived into the CTA era), had longitudinal (a|k|a bowling alley) seats.
    Longitudinal seats are the norm in many other cities worldwide, including Tokyo.
    It may be that the CTA might need to institute a campaign similar to that of Tokyo Metro - but I surmise that would draw only more criticism from the persons who browse this weblog.
    Ultimately, it comes down to this: Are you a courteous CTA rider?
    I suspect most of you are. But then again, I also espy these scenes on transit vehicles.
    The patron who boards the westbound Belmont bus at Sheffield, and declines a seat in favor of standing in the rear exit doorway. And then, doesn't exit the bus until Oakley. There were 15 riders who had to plow through this patron in order to exit the bus at his|her stop. Yes, I counted them. I kept waiting to see when this patron exited.
    Maybe that patron thought no one would notice this.
    I noticed this.
    Cease doing this.
    We can't do much more than pointing this out publically when it comes to other transit patrons being discourteous. But we should certainly redouble our efforts to ensure that we don't become another discourteous transit patron.

  • You know Kev, I grew up on bench and longitudinal seating and it didn't bother me. I only experienced forward facing seating (on trains) when I moved here two years ago. I have to admit, its nice when its an empty train and no one is sitting next to you. That being said, people will still experience that when the trains are empty (or at least any other line than Red). However, the CTA is a rush hour system and if it wants to keep the bulk of its riders happy, the CTA needs to make sure the riders can fit on a train and the only real way to do this without giving up a lot of seats is longitudinal seating. I'd rather stand than let a train pass (maybe thats my inner-New Yorker). Seriously, I'm incapable of letting a train pass if I can fit.
    I would hope that the CTA ordered slightly wider seats so people won't feel so cramped.

  • The funding issue sounds more and more like Nero fiddling while Rome burned...let's spend some more money that we don't have and can't even be sure that we will have when it's time to pay the bonds back...


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