New rail cars now riding the Pink Line; Green, Red Line next up, source says

The folks at sure do know their trains too. They predicted three weeks ago the new rail cars would go into service on the Pink Line by the end of October, and were only off by a week.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel got his first ride on the new Series 5000 rail cars Tuesday at the Midway station of the Orange Line. (I’m not sure why Rahm couldn’t ride the new cars on the Pink Line, where they are making their inaugural run.)

“The 5000-series cars provide a more enjoyable ride for customers,” CTA President Forrest Claypool said in a press release. “These cars have wider aisles and roomier interiors, electronic destination signs and security cameras in each car for enhanced safety.”

Of course, the wider aisles and roomier interiors result from the aisle-facing seating configuration, which has been criticized here and elsewhere. But folks, I think we’re just going to have to get used to it, because I seriously doubt there will be any changes made at this point.

The total cost of the rail cars $1.137 billion which is funded by two CTA bond issuances backed by sales tax receipts. The remainder is paid for by $150 million in federal funds.

A knowledgeable source on said the Pink Line will  have its full allotment of new rail cars by the end of the year. The Green Line will get the next shipment, followed by the Red Line, he said, in mid-2012.

View a Flickr photoset from the Tuesday press conference.


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  • The side facing seats will go, at great expense, when the idiots at the CTA discover that the two person sections are mostly filled with enormous fat people taking up 1.5 seats, leaving .5 of a seat empty.
    So what will happen is that there will be far too many standing & serious complaints about that.
    I also know of some people that get carsick from riding sideways.

    This will be as successful as the experiment with several buses out of Forest Glen, where three or four rows of seats were removed & a standing area was left in its place. That insanity didn't last long & neither will this.

    Greg Hinz in Crain's ripped this apart today & he does ride the CTA.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    The focus here should be on capacity, not comfort -- especially on trains, which are much more conducive to standing. Remember, you (and the taxpayers) are paying for a ride, not a seat.

    If that's too much of an affront to your dignity, you're always more than welcome to pony up for unsubsidized transportation.

  • In reply to darkwing:

    The first sentence is sad but true (and see my post below). Despite the snark in the second paragraph, I said in connection with the budget that after it all shakes out with regard to taxi and CTA fares, it may be cheaper to take the cab (especially if a family is riding). The City Council has proved before that it is willing to stick it to the cab drivers, while having no effective power with regard to CTA fares.

  • In reply to darkwing:

    Darkwing: if the focus is on capacity, then I submit capacity will be less because fewer people will be able to sit due to the seating configuration. At least with the current seating, those bigger people could shift into the aisle or the three inches by the window. Not anymore. They will have to stand, taking up more room, and leaving empty seats as Scooter says.

    (Did I just agree with Scooter???)

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Obviously no one at CTA figures it that way. Instead, they figure that there is more standing room for fatties in the wide aisle, rather than one fatty clogging up the narrower aisle on the 2 x 2 seating cars, and undoubtedly just inside from the door well, instead of in the middle of the car, so everyone else has to squeeze around the lardo.

    It is clear that since CTA went to 2 x 1 seating on buses and L cars in 1991-1993, and longitudinal seating, including on the more recent buses (not to forget the max capacity cars) capacity does not equal seating capacity, but apparently is inverse to it.

    Someone on pointed out that the whole capacity thing was bogus, if light lines like Pink, and certainly Green, get the cars while a heavy one, Blue (on the O'Hare branch), won't. Maybe they are applying Kevin's logic to the Blue, after all, although presumably it would be getting the 2 x 1 seat 3200 series cars. In any event, though, they seem to be wasting money if the cars to be scrapped are on the Blue, but there have to be several car shifts to get them replaced.

  • In reply to jack:

    You comment brings up one of the best parts of the new cars. No more walls near the doorways. Hopefully this means more people will move in or at the very least it will be easier to get by them.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    I don't see how seated passengers take up less space than standing ones -- at a minimum, they're wasting the space between the seats, and the CTA's seat pitch is pretty generous. Longitudinal seating at least allows people to stand in this wasted space.

    It seems to me that if someone's so fat they take up more space than this, they're not going to be able to fit into the seat anyway.

  • In reply to darkwing:

    DArkwing, you missed my point. My point is that there will be fewer seated passengers and more empty half-used seats. Thus, the trains will be more crowded with standing passengers.

    Really, I hope I'm wrong about this....

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Not necessarily. 9 longitudinal seats can seat 6 of your hypotheticals.

    But this just shows what a farce the capacity debate has become.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Remember, I don't care about utilization, only capacity. If every seated fatty takes up two seats, then we only need to be able to fit an extra 19 standing passengers (there are 38 seats, right?) to break even. I think the new cars will fit substantially more than that.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Since the roll out was on the Orange Line (I said either here or on that Emanuel was not going to the 54 Yard in Cicero), the TV reports also don't show whether the signs are multichromatic and hence the 54-Cermak signs are Pink, or if CTA stayed bullheaded in this regard, too, and only ordered the amber signs.

    However, Scooter, it is more likely that since CTA ignored about a year and a half of complaints about these seats, they aren't going to be changed. Todd Stroger, appointed by Mayor Roderick Sawyer to be the head of the CTA in 2015, succeeding probably the return of Ron Huberman in 2013, will say "we'd like to do it, but we don't have the money. In fact, we have to rip out the seats we have" (bringing back the max capacity cars).

    Even if you don't accept the names posited above, see if there aren't in fact 3 CTA Presidents by 2016, when this order is supposed to be complete, according to the CTA budget.

    If one looks at, there are references to (a) a WLS-DT report Tuesday morning that Rahm was going to make an announcement about "Improvements to the Orange Line" (which he didn't later that day) and a WMAQ-DT report saying where the cars go after the Green Line (based on the WLS observation, I wonder where they got that piece of information, which, in some regards, doesn't make sense, so it in fact may have been provided by the CTA).

  • In reply to jack:

    One thing I've noticed about the side seats on the 4000 articulated buses is that in the trailer section, the CTA has installed three side seats where they could have put two front facing seats [seating four & still have the same space for standees, due to the way the bus is built. A number of the artics also don't have the pairs of seats on the turntable, which is insane since there's no way to stand there safely.
    It's become obvious that is a group of managers on Lake St. that flat out hate the passengers & want to treat us like shit!
    And they're succeeding!
    And for once I agree with Kevin, if a fat person takes the window seat on a current train, you still have the option of getting half a seat on the aisle.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    The answer to all of that, of course, is that CTA says that the capacity of an articulated bus is 120, while the number of seats has gone down from the advertised 61 on the NABIs to the 54 on the original 4000s, to probably about 48 on the 4150s. I haven't done a count on the latter.

    So long as the GVWR doesn't exceed the limits so much that an axle breaks (like the split on the NABIs), CTA doesn't care.

    The other question is the odds of a fat person getting a window seat. Kevin can probably talk to this better than I, but I doubt that anyone now gets a seat on the Red Line much south of Loyola during anything other than an off hour.

    If your point is whether CTA cares about its passengers (other than one who gets on with his entourage [pun intended] at Montrose and Ravenswood), darkwing answered that, and you figured it out. I don't know if I would make it as intentional a goal as you did, though.

    Let's just say that CTA is still thinking about the Japanese train packer, except that would entail hiring more employees.

  • In reply to jack:

    I'm sure that numerous buses are exceeding their weight limits, especially per axle limits.
    The proof of that is out there to be seen at bus stops all over the city. The buses are so overloaded, especially on the front axles, which only have a single wheel & tire, versus the dual wheels on the rear axles, that the asphalt streets [technically, bituminous concrete] get shifted around into long ruts & mounds on hot days & these remain until the street is repaired or replaced.
    The city's response isn't to use a portable scale & ticket the driver & make the CTA reduce the weight.
    No, at great expense, the city installs concrete pads at the stops so the street isn't destroyed by the extremely overweight buses.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Many cities have installed paver brick or concrete pads at bus stops, and asphalt is wavy all over. So this doesn't prove your proposition.

    Anyway, the city tried "fining the CTA" with regard to red light cameras, and there is no report that this deterred drivers. Emanuel is sure going to get a lot of votes doing what you say and emptying the bus so that the riders can try to catch the next overcrowded one.

    In any event, my point was whether CTA would care, not CDOT.

  • In reply to jack:

    I give CTA more credit than the two of you on most things but I will complain about this. I have seen numerous bus stops in the past six to eight months where concrete pads were put in last year or the year before but the bus stops have since been moved to the other side of an intersection where no concrete pad is in place. Now there is an expensive pad for no reason and the asphalt on the other side gets rutted. Another stupid thing is sidewalk benches. The bus stop moved to the other side of the intersection with no shelter or bench and the old bench sits lonely on the unused side.

  • In reply to jack:

    The complaining about the amber lights really gets me. Now if your argument is why spend all the time and trouble branding the lines as colors for the past twenty years and then buy cars that are incapable of quickly showing people what color a train is, I agree with that. But the whole "people will be confused when a loop train gets to Wellington or below and they won't know if it is a purple line or a brown line" is bunk.

    There are four scenarios:
    1. If someone gets on a purple line instead of a brown, they get off at Clark and Lake and walk the extra block or two. Just reverse it if someone wanting a purple gets on a brown. Get off at Washington and walk. (I already do this. Where ever I am going I get off at Washington/Wells and walk).
    2. If someone gets on a purple line instead of a brown, ride the train around the loop. Eventually the train will get to your stop. Again the reverse is true.
    3. Count the number of cars if it is six. It is a purple line train. Eight equals Brown line.
    4. If you get on the wrong train and hear an announcement or see it on the scroll panel. Get off the train at the next stop and wait again. It does not cost any time since you would have had to wait for that train anyway.

    And if the overwhelming travesty of having to do one of these four scenarios is surely so burdensome for customers, CTA could just reroute the purple line onto the outer tracks like they did during reconstruction and there would be no confusion what so ever.

  • In reply to greenecity:

    The actual confusion (which you seem to recognizer) is if a train gets to the outer track from Belmont to Fullerton and only says LOOP in orange.

    Most of your hypotheticals are irrelevant, as for instance nobody is going to count cars and there is no assurance that train lengths are going to stay constant.

    Maybe the real points are that (a) from what NBC said, for some foolish reason the Brown Line isn't getting 5000s, but the Poiple, which runs downtown about only 6 hours a day will, or (b) the Poiple Line is going to be rerouted into the State Subway by 2016.

    However, since the color signs aren't much more expensive that the amber ones, even coffee shops have them, and Rodriguez said that they were going to make the change to them, it is only bullheadedness if CTA didn't.

  • In reply to jack:

    My point was, that nobody sits around at Belmont, Wellington, Diversey, Fullerton, Armitage, Sedgwick, and Chicago letting trains pass them until the right color train comes by. People just get on the first train that is crush load and either walk or ride the train around. And those people that do wait for a specific train can just get off and walk once in the loop or wait for the train to go around the loop. How are these hypothetical situations irrelevant. Also considering that regardless of what train you get it will take just as long to get to Library, Adams and Madison it really is only a problem for people that get off at State/Lake, Randolph or Quincy. I still maintain that you can just walk, wait for the train to go around or get off at Merchandise Mart and wait for one that has the proper routing. Give me a hypothetical where it is a travesty that someone gets on the wrong train.

    Like you say, the purple train only runs 6 hours a day and the trains are not going to be lengthened anytime in the next decade, why should cta pay more money for signs that do not pose any real confusion.

    We both know the real point, all of this does not really matter when we do not know how operational expenses are going to be covered in the next years let alone the massive capital costs needed to run a system where these new cars are used to a small percentage of their potential.

  • In reply to greenecity:

    that should be not crush load

  • In reply to greenecity:

    Another reason why the color system was enacted is that people who were not familiar with the Latin alphabet had another way to figure out which train (i.,e. what is Kimball if all you know is Korean characters?). Maybe by 2021 they will learn English.

    As far as your surmise whether people are willing to ride around the Loop, that isn't reflected in outbound traffic--i.e. the Ravenswood train doesn't load up until Wabash and Lake Streets, while the Evanston Express doesn't load up until Wells. I find it hard to believe that people act in disregard of that behavior and allow for another 10 minutes on the inbound trip.

    But, in conclusion, while we don't know about the signs, CTA's actions about the seating arrangement, and insistence on using 1972 bus interior decor on a 2012 train, when Huberman asked for permission for something more modern at no further cost, indicates what CTA's real attitude toward change is. Arguing hypotheticals about their assumptions about passenger behavior isn't going to change that.

  • In reply to jack:

    Don't forget that the 4000 series & earlier cars had eight lights on the front of each car pair in two, vertical four light arrays that were used to indicate what line they were for English illiterates. Two lights were lit to tell you which train to get on.

  • In reply to jack:

    Exactly. People will get off at the first stop in the loop and walk. Or in the outbound trip, they will go to the one that exits the loop the quickest (even though there is no confusion on outbound trips). People who get on at Belmont-Chicago do not pick the train they get on based on color, instead they get on the first one that comes and get off at the first loop stop and walk because it is quicker even if you are walking all the way across the loop. For those that do not do this they can ride around.

    You highlight what my over arching theme should be, the amber light confusion is the smallest problem on these cars. on people went on and on about what I am going to do, I won't know what train. You will do exactly what you do now, get on the first one and get off at the first stop.

    There are many more things to say about these cars. Even the lights are a problem not because of confusion but because it destroys the branding of the lines as colors like Scooter points out. I one time had to help out a student from the middle east. I surmise this because he had a book with American law in Arabic as the only Latin characters on the front. He could not even understand the difference between Brown and Green in English, let alone Kimball and Harlem. But at least I could point to the color and say when this color shows up, you board. That is out the door. Now we go back to running lights, that is as bad as counting cars.

    Are the maps in the cars that light up easy to change when new stops get added. I hope the new Morgan stop is on there at least.

    Does the lowering mechanism actually work every time now. It certainly didn't during testing.

    Why buy 60 percent new ac equipment but not add on another option for 400 more and do the whole thing. By the time the contract is over the 3200 cars will be almost 25 years old. Would it have been more feasible to just forgo an overhaul and get new equipment to hasten complete AC transition. I guess nobody thought that it would take this long to get the cars but a third option would be nice. It is not like they needed to exercise it.

    And of course the interior and seat layout. All of these things are much more concerns than a handful of people having to ride around the loop or walk two extra blocks.

  • Well I like the new cars. I didn't think I would but I do.

  • First, stop with the name calling. And, Kevin, you should moderate this.

    Second, the sideways seats wouldn't be so bad if there weren't butt indentations. That way, every seated person would take up as much space as they take up, whether they are fat or thin or have wide hips or broad shoulders.

  • In reply to elllveee:

    That was debated here about 6 months ago, but when Kevin asked Claypool, the answer was no.

  • @ScooterLibbby said 1 hour, 4 minutes ago (out of reply buttons)

    Heck, all modern cars have the 4 lights at the top of each front window. Haven't you noticed them?

    Of course, one would then have to assume that those without English fluency would consult chicago-l,org to determine the meanings, not to mention the white flashing light when the train goes unscheduled express.

  • In reply to jack:

    But the CTA doesn't use them like Chicago Rapid Transit did to indicate the route.
    I doubt if anyone at the CTA would know how to do it & there's probably less than 100 people in the city that could figure it out today.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Better tell Vice President or Whatever Graham Garfield that.>Lines and Routes-->Marker Lights-->Marker Route Identification.

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