CTA surveys riders on design elements - including seating - for future rail cars

In a new survey, the CTA is asking for rider opinions about various aspects of the rail car of the future, part of the new 7000 series. Take the survey.

The CTA is seeking those opinions in advance of the request for proposals it will publish to get bids from rail car manufacturers. “It’s a pretty broad research effort that will assist CTA in determining the optimal design requirements for the cars, and the research results will be part of the criteria weighed in the selection of a manufacturer for the 7000 series,” said a CTA spokesperson.

Here are some elements of the survey:

  • How passengers board and alight the cars.
  • How they move around within the cars.
  • Questions for standing passengers, such as whether they prefer holding a strap or bar.
  • Various questions on seating layouts.
  • Other interior design elements.

Questions about seating layouts showed photos of the new 5000 series layout with aisle-facing “scoop” seats, compared with the traditional seating now found on the older Red Line cars, and compared with the mixed seating found on some Brown and Orange line cars. Another question showed the current New York bench subway seating compared to the traditional Red Line seating configuration. And there was a question about cloth vs. plastic seats.

So the good news here is the CTA is testing the waters on lots of seating configuration, possibly with an eye to tossing the much-criticized aisle-facing “scoop” seats on the news 5000 series cars.

(Hat tip to CTA Tattler reader Mike for bringing the survey to my attention. I didn’t actually take the survey.)



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  • As you note to your link to yourself, the request for proposals is already out there. So, this survey is not "in advance."

    The only relevant question is whether the Chief Rail Engineer is going to go along with the inference from the request for proposals that this is the 5000 spec, including compatibility with 5000 seat cushions, unless the Chief Rail Engineer agrees otherwise, or in the minutes of the prebid meeting that he wants something different. In any event, he requested that the bidders submit the alternatives--not that the RFP would be put on hold pending the survey (sort of comparable to CTA withdrawing the requisition for the 3500 series of cars). The procurement page still says that the bid due date will be on 7/25/2013. [But I don't feel it worth my while to download two more addenda.]

    You can tell that, either way, I don't think that the survey means much of anything.

  • No Jack, the RFP hasn't gone out yet. The CTA earlier this year issued an Invitation to Bid on the RFP.

  • I think you are trying to make a distinction without a difference.

    The bid document is out there and has an opening date. Download it for yourself.

  • One more problem with the wretched 5000 seats.
    If they are supposed to have more aisle room, then why didn't they assign them to the O'Hare & Midway trains where people have lots of luggage?
    That they aren't is proof there isn't any more room.
    Plus people's legs & feet are now way beyond the painted line that the fools that run the CTA think they should keep their feet behind.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    No, it only proves that they don't know how to assign cars.

    Remember that first, the Blue Line was supposed to get them, because it had the 2200 series cars to be replaced' now the Blue Line is not supposed to get them at all.

    As I said before, it costs more money to shift cars around the system than not do so. Now if they have some operational reason for shuffling the cars (other than the original statement that the Pink Line got the 5000s first because it was advisable to introduce them first on a light route, in case of trouble--which did occur), I would like to hear it.

  • In reply to jack:

    I would think there has to be a reason that they weren't assigned to the blue line. Perhaps they found issues when they tested it on the blue line. (They did test the 5000 on all the lines right?) I understand putting it on the red line if you want the majority of your riders to have the newest trains, but that's not the reason they have given. Besides, the blue line has the 2nd most riders I believe.

    Whatever the reason, it doesn't seem like they are making an effort to fix any potential problem preventing it, based on the construction report. Or maybe they're ignoring it...

  • In reply to chris:

    They were tested on all lines, and apparently starting them on the Pink revealed issues with losing electric power at Tower 18, but that didn't stop them, although the wheel bearing journal problem did.

    Basically, all the equipment shifts show that CTA is fairly arbitrary, especially on the buses. There might be some rationale, such as evening out mileage or allocating buses with BusTracker equipment (now, no longer a consideration as all have it), but one has to shake one's head at such things as Archer getting the first 1000s, and then trading them all for 6400s, notwithstanding it eventually closing.

    I figure that now the rationale is similar to when the last bus options were exercised, i.e. then with 1258 fairly new buses, every garage was going to get some, and, based on putting the 7000s specifications out, everyone will get a new L car by 2020.

    Basically, beside my pointing out that a rationale for the shuffling not being explained, my point was that the exhibited arbitrariness negates any reason Scooter presented for allocating seat capacity.

  • How may one take that survey?

  • Just got he survey link from the CTA: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/_CTARailSeatStudy

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Thank you Kevin!

    There are enough essay-question boxes that I was able to express myself, not just venting (though there is a place to describe your subjective reactions to each scenario) but also describing specifically what I did or did not like about the seating configurations and how they affect my ride experience. That's the mark of a good survey, that in addition to the multiple choice they provide for laying all that out. Someone somewhere put their thinking cap on for this. Perhaps they read this blog.

    I will say that to the "anything else you want to say about the CTA" at the very end, I simply said "Don't get me started!"

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    No, it's a wretched, rotten, terrible survey designed to get a pre-determined answer!
    The proof of that is Question 10, which gives you only the choices of NYC subway train seats or 5000 series seats & no option to say you hate both of them.
    They will use the answers from Q10 & only Q10 to decide what seats are in the future!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    You mean you took the time to go that far after my first post stating "You can tell that, either way, I don't think that the survey means much of anything."?

    But thanks for confirming my suspicion.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Or you could have made comments about it when you filled out the survey stating you didn't like any of the options.

    I was surprised to hear you liked something about the CTA the other day when you mentioned that you liked the new TV screens. Didn't realize that was possible.

  • In reply to chris:

    I made lots of comments at the end of the survey.
    And the CTA weasels won't like one of them!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Excuuuuuse me for living, scooter!

    I found enough comment fields to say everything I needed to say. For instance, pointing out that if a train comes along that doesn't have any place decent to sit, I'll wait for the next one rather than stand. Sure they don't offer that possibility as an option (because they seem to be stuck on the idea that standing should become the default position) but I worked it in, didn't I?

    BTW I managed to trash the "compromise" car configuration, the one that has a grudging few more forward-facing seats. Phooey on that. Y'know, when I get on a normal car with lots of forward facing seats and most are taken, I don't hear anyone complaining that they'd rather stand or sit sideways.

  • There is an article on Wired today about subway seating. It seemed to have some interesting ideas. http://www.wired.com/autopia/2013/04/rethinking-subway-seating/

  • In reply to eBob:

    The NY Times wrote an article on the same study the other day as well. Maybe Kevin can find that.

  • In reply to chris:

    The Wired article is useless & worthless for Chicago due to the small size of CTA L cars.
    They're probably the smallest in this country & among the smallest anywhere in both width & length.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    That's sure how it looks from the picture in the Wired article. No one would consider putting a stanchion in the aisle of a CTA car. However, widthwise, that may not be the case. Internet sources indicate that NY cars vary between 8'10" and 10'. Chicago's are uniform, and because of the bowed sides, are 9'4" (according to Krambles's book) at the belt, although 8'8" at the platform.

    NYCSubway.org indicates that different series of cars are assigned to different divisions, as opposed to any CTA car theoretically being able to run anywhere in the system. So, maybe the survey doesn't work in some parts of NYC, either.

  • In reply to jack:

    NYC subway cars are divided by the numbered lines which use 75 foot cars & the lettered lines which use 60 foot cars which are also narrower than the 75' ones, so they aren't used on the numbered lines because of the gap between the platform & the doors. The lettered lines [ex BMT/IND] can't use the longer cars due to tighter turns in the tunnels.

    I remember years ago, when David Young was the Trib's transportation columnist, he wrote a column saying the CTA needed to eliminate the 90' radius turns & switch to longer cars to save money.
    Young was also the man to contact when you saw a problem on the rails, because the CTA actually listened to him & not the passengers. I did that a couple of times & they really did fix the problems!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    They did ease the curve from Wabash to the alley south of Congress, but unless someone figures out how to ease the curves in the Loop (especially Wabash-Lake), and probably also in the subway at State-Division, I think Chicago is stuck with the current dimensions.

    Also, since trains now are one operator, I don't see how making the cars longer would save much money, as I assume that each car would need proportionately more power.

    And, if you go back to the 1940s engineering report in Krambles's book, the limiting factor regarding width was the position of the platforms, and the conclusion then was that it wasn't worth it to cut them back. Then most of them were wood. It would seem to be that the limiting factor in any seating arrangement would be width.

    Thanks for explaining the differences in NY lines.

  • In reply to jack:

    They also eased the Hubbard/Franklin/Wells curve in 1949.
    Before that it was just like the old Harrison/Wabash curve.
    If you go to the Chicago Architecture Foundation in the Railway Exchange Building at Jackson/Michigan, their model of downtown still shows the incorrect Hubbard turns, despite having filled out their error correction card more than once! Their model has Harrison curve correctly though.

  • In reply to jack:

    Longer trains would mean fewer motorman compartments & door controllers.
    I don't know why the CTA didn't go with the original 5000 series of CRT, later cars 51-54, the articulateds that first ran on Ravenswood in rush hour & later exclusively on the Swift.
    They would only need three articulated units to replace an 8 car train & save money on control cabs & fewer trucks.
    BTW, a few NYC trains are 8 car married octuplets with only a single operators cab at one end making them a mandatory 16 cars long at all times.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    That is explained in the literature, especially CERA115.
    1. Those artics had no more capacity than the current 2 car trains.
    2. There wasn't a way for the conductor to inspect the sides before closing the doors, although sticking the conductor between cars on the earliest 6000s didn't seem to make much sense, either.
    3. CTA didn't have long enough inspection pits or lifts (one of the books said that the only one was in the Metropolitan Rapid Transit shop at Congress and Marshfield), and thus the two articulations would have to be disassembled. Apparently less work to disassemble the ball joint under the married pair.

    From 1950 through the 2200s (i.e. until the 2400s were delivered starting in ~1976-7), the cabs could be used for seating, and even now the side of the cab not containing the controls still can be.

    Given the $1.4 million cost per 5000 (and probably $2.5 million per 7000), the cost of a couple of extra door controls is trivial.

    And CTA has said, understandably so, there are costs of not being able to break a consist during off peak periods, including electricity and wear on the wheels. So, the married octuplets would never fly here.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Mr. Libbby...sorry to inform you but your responses contain errors in describing certain features and aspects of Chicago's 'L' system and New York's subway system......six to be exact.

    1. "NYC subway cars are divided by the numbered lines which use 75 foot cars & the lettered lines which use 60 foot cars." WRONG...The "A" Division which is the numbered lines use the shorter 52 ft. cars. The "B" Division which is the lettered lines use 75 ft. cars and 60 ft. cars. You had it backwards and the wrong car lengths.

    2. "The lettered lines [Ex BMT/IND] can't use the longer cars due to tighter turns in the tunnels." WRONG...See explanations above. You reversed things. Would have been true in reference to the 75 ft B Division cars on parts of the B Division.

    3. "They also eased the Hubbard/Franklin/Wells curve in 1949." WRONG....Your date would mean the work was done by the CTA. The curves were eased by the Chicago Rapid Transit Company in the 1920s. Don't know your facts.

    4./5. "They would need three articulated units to replace an 8 car train & save money on control cabs & fewer trucks" WRONG....The three-compartment articulated cars, the original 5000 series were 88 ft. long. The CTA rarely combined the four sets, but there are photos, and four articulated units was the equivalent to an eight car train, not three. Since each set of compartment cars still had four trucks, there would be NO savings in the number of trucks or the number of control cabs. The Chicago subway system was designed to run trains of six sets of compartment cars. Don't know the facts, as usual.

    6. "A few NYC trains are 8 married octuplets with only a single operators cab at one end making them a mandatory 16 cars long at all times." WRONG...NYC has four car sets (ABBA) and five car sets (ABBBA) making for maximum trains of eight, ten, and eleven cars (ABBBAABBBAA). CTA cars are two car married pairs (AA) and our system maxes with eight car trains (AAAAAAAA)

    Have you ever explained why you misspell "Libbby" with three B's????

  • Scooter, you are right about the small size of the CTA cars. However, I thought the study was useful in that it showed riders don't like sitting between two other riders, which is the biggest problem of the center-facing seats.

  • In reply to Edgewater Roadie:

    I don't think you need a study to learn that people don't like sitting between two others!
    Complaints about coach seats on airplanes have been around for decades.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Of course, WE the passengers don't need a study to learn that.

    But the CTA is obviously not "we."

    THEY need a study to learn that it really matters to us, and that we're not about to just give in and learn to like it just because they would prefer us to.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    But what seems consistent about the CTA, especially under the Emanuel administration, is that they don't care what really matters to the riders. Looking at Hilkevitch columns, especially about prior adverse feedback about the seats in the 5000s, the Crowd Reduction Plan, and Ventra tickets and cards, manifestly proves that.

    I believe that Scooter is correct that CTA will take a result of 50.5% for longitudinal couch seats v. 49.5% for scooped longitudinal seats as an endorsement of longitudinal seats, and will either ignore the comments or publish pat answers to them (such as the floor scrubber needs room to maneuver). For instance, regardless of whether one believes the structural justification for the current seat arrangement in the 5000s, the Chief Rail Engineer, if he is so bothered by the color scheme, could have requested a change order for the about 450 5000 cars still to be delivered.

    If you think CTA really cares about passenger input, send Customer Service a request and see if you don't get an autotext e-mail back.

  • They're going to do what they're going to do no matter what anyone else says. I'm not even bothering with the survey.

  • Cheryl, I suggest you take the survey and express your opinions frankly and intelligently in the essay-question boxes. Someone is going to compile those answers (it's called the verbatim section) and someone is going to read them. If we make enough noise about it, the results might even be made available--at least through this blog. Don't you think CTA Tattler has played some role in shining a light on the CTA's relationship (or lack thereof) with its passengers and maneuvering whoever is at the top into paying some attention? I don't think it's a complete waste of time to agitate as we are able.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    [Unfortunately] Cheryl is correct here.

    If you want to agitate, get a bunch of teachers' union members and picket in front of 567 West Lake. Maybe Channel 32.1 will pick up the story.

  • I heard about that CTA car theoretically the capacity to run location in machine, but survey report not supportive for CTA. multiquotetruck.co.uk

  • In reply to micly:

    Is this in the same English as is spoken in Chicago? Otherwise, what do you mean in this necropost?

  • In reply to jack:

    Maybe it's Spamglish.

  • In reply to rastewart:

    Definitely, Kevin, please purge it.

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