First 5000-series rail car reviews: smooth, quiet, "dated"

I missed the first run Monday of the new 5000-series, but other CTA Tattler readers gave their first reviews.

Loop Worker said the trains had “more of a modern feel” and the “floor seems softer.” He doesn’t mind the aisle-facing seats, and noted the plus of having space under the seat for seat hogs to place their bags.

Max T-M noted the quiet and smooth ride, but disagreed with Loop Worker about “modern feel.” On his blog, Max opined:

“The exterior looks nearly identical, and so does the interior. The
problem is that it’s already kind of dated looking and not very
interesting. The interior is especially disappointing. The seats look
pretty bad in their arrangement. They need to ditch the ugly beige color
on the plastic molding and seats. The passengers I saw took a while to
notice that something was even different.”

Max did like the giant interior LED signs. In fact he called them “fantastic.”

Here are three of Max’s photos. Thanks Max. And let us know your opinion when you get a chance. Here’s the weekday schedule. I’ll post the weekend schedule later in the week.

5000 series interior signage.jpg

One of the “fantastic” LED signs.

5000 series aisle crowd.jpg

More passengers can stand in the aisles hanging on straps, under the watchful eyes of ceiling-mounted cameras.

5000 series map.jpg

Maps use lights to indicate train locations.


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  • Why is the CTA investing thousands of dollars in the lighted system map signs for these cars?

  • In reply to rsakowski:

    Yeah, cause not getting LED signs will fix the capital budget woes...

  • In reply to chris:

    There's hardly a capital budget woe to consider. The real funding issues are operational costs.

  • In reply to chris:

    To Chris and Marcus Twain: Do you think these stupid LED "You are here" actual serve any benefit to these cars? With all the automated announcements and now the scrolling LED messages inside these cars, the LED "You are Here" signs are hardly worth the additional costs to maintain and replace when additional stops are added.

    It is true that without these stupid displays, the budget crisis would not be resolved but there are other areas where this money could be spent.

  • In reply to rsakowski:

    I'd rather see another LED sign (possibly just two of the signs that are at the ends of each car with next and next-next stop information. Or perhaps a simple graphic of the next 3-4 stops, names, and terminal destination (including ETA at the terminal).

  • In reply to rsakowski:

    The CTA may not have a choice in these LED signs, no matter how you feel. These are probably an ADA requirement and all new cars will have to have them installed. There are issues deeper with the CTA that an LED sign will not solve.

  • In reply to rsakowski:

    Steve, I am not against the LED signs that display the messages. (picture 1 above) I agree these are probably ADA requirements. I am against the stupid "you are here" LED maps. See picture 3 above.

  • In reply to rsakowski:


  • In reply to chris:

    Steve R: "The whole map board is digital, including the names of the stops, so that the cars can be interchanged on different lines without printing a plastic map. The use of LED dots is a much needed improvement but is already dated and the font and color chosen for the NEXT STOP boards looks horrible."

    Are you talking about the LED "You are here" map in the new CTA cars or the ones found in the NYC cars? If you are talking about the ones on the CTA cars, the board might be digital but there appears to be a plastic card over the digital display. Please explain how you feel the LED "You are here" map is a much needed improvement?

  • I spy, with my little eye, a temporary non-stop on the Red Line at Washington. It would seem that the lighted map is designed for the return of that station, if that ever happens (soon?)

  • To the person who stated that these seem outdated, they're right. Just watch an episode of Ultimate Factories on Nat Geo where they show the new NYC Subway cars. The whole map board is digital, including the names of the stops, so that the cars can be interchanged on different lines without printing a plastic map. The use of LED dots is a much needed improvement but is already dated and the font and color chosen for the NEXT STOP boards looks horrible. NYC has also gotten rid of the hand straps. Also, with the availability of colored LEDS why are the line names (ie 95th) not in the line's colors but instead in a boring orange. Seems like a loss from the roller curtain signs where you could ID a train by color and terminus. Perhaps this is a downfall of the extended lead times required to purchase and build these cars. Does anyone know who the manufacturer of the cars is? I believe the NYC ones are Alsoft. Interesting story none-the-less.

  • In reply to stevestr:

    NYC's new trains (R160) are made by Kawasaki or Alstom. NYC is bringing the hand straps back too, at least in trials.

    The map point is interesting, but keep in mind that NYC's FIND maps only show the current line as opposed to the entire system. NYC's subway is so complicated that this is useful during the millions of service changes that occur, especially on the weekends. Chicagoans never have to deal with confusing announcements like, "The F will run express to Jay Street then on the A line to West 4th Street." Of course, CTA could just use a big flat panel LCD for the entire system, but vandalism and maintenance would probably be more costly.

    The R160 suffers from the same problem as the 5000-series in that the line is always shown in red. In NYC, the only "red" lines are the 1, 2, and 3. I'm not sure how hard it would be to use full-spectrum LEDs.

    The R160s are definitely much sleeker and have brighter, more modern interiors & seating.

  • In reply to stevestr:

    It would be nice if they could do away with the plastic inserts somehow. I think there is something nicer at the Chicago red line stop. They have a lit up system map. Looks nice.

  • Boarding at Howard, several people expressed their displeasure not knowing if they were boarding a Red or Purple line train. It is disappointing having no indication of route color at all.

  • In reply to goodoldeej:

    DJ: has the literacy rate gone down in Chicago recently?

  • In reply to marktwain:

    What does literacy have to do with color? Color is a lot easier to identify farther down the track than trying to read an orange on black typeface. Besides, colored LEDs have gone down in price and there is no real reason they could not be used for this application. Finally, I'd assume there are probably some people who are either illiterate or who do not speak English as a primary language for who the color is a better indicator than a text output.

  • In reply to stevestr:


  • In reply to goodoldeej:

    "Doors closing" has a new little chime -

  • In reply to goodoldeej:

    I listened to the YouTube clip and I do think it's a bit puny. They've gone from the "London Bell" Gong which was equally annoying to this meager week bing bong. They're going to have to tune that up a bit.

  • In reply to stevestr:

    You still get the "doors closing" announcement. The new chime is just an added alert as the doors are actually closing.

  • In reply to goodoldeej:

    Kevin, thanks for the shout out in the article. I appreciate the work you do regarding the CTA, even if I have to follow it currently from Colorado.

  • In reply to goodoldeej:

    Are the front lights in front of the lead car's destination display still the same as they were on the 2000-series?

    In other words, for example, on the old trains, Red Line trains would have the two yellow lights on the top of the train on. Yellow Line trains would have the 2 green lights on; Brown would have a red & green, and Purple Loop- or northbound have two white.

  • In reply to Noah121:

    Yes Noah, the lights are still there. But who knows what that mean aside from a handful of transit geeks.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Most riders I know have figured them out and they're easier to see than the rolling signs. Plus, marker lights are never "wrong", whereas sometimes the rollers are.

    That describes the markers, and now you know. And knowing is half the battle. Yo, Joe!

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