August 6, 2013

Chicago's next-gen railcars to feature new seating configuration

As part of a continuing plan to modernize its rail fleet, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) developed a new, customer-friendly railcar seating configuration for the next generation of railcars it plans to purchase and introduce as early as 2016.

The new seating design, created after careful study of existing design, passenger flow, capacity and comfort, is a hybrid of the best features from existing CTA railcar styles — incorporating both forward- and aisle-facing seats. The CTA conducted both empirical research as well as customer surveys to develop a recommended seating configuration.

The proposed configuration for the 7000 series, as the next generation is called, will be provided to manufacturers bidding on the railcar project, which could be up to 846 cars and cost nearly $2 billion.

In the new design, the front of the car would offer aisle-facing seats to maximize standing space.

The middle of the car would feature an asymmetrical mix of forward-facing and aisle-facing single seats and seat pairs, similar to the configuration found on railcars used on the Brown and Orange Lines (3200 series cars), which allow for more passengers to stand with ease.

The rear of the car would include rows of forward-facing seat pairs, providing the maximum number of forward-facing seats in area that will not impede passenger flow.

Additional features include two locations per car for passengers with wheelchairs. Also, the railcar configuration could include offset poles and straps for standing passengers on each side of the aisle, instead of poles located directly across the aisle from each other, which increases the chances of passengers standing back-to-back and inadvertently blocking the aisle.

The new design would have as many as 38 seats, compared with 38 to 46 on other railcars. The proposed configuration would have a more even mix of forward-facing (53%) and aisle-facing (47%) seats in a design that promotes more efficiency in boarding and exiting the train while providing passengers several standing and seating choices.

The 7000 series is designed to replace the oldest railcars in the CTA’s fleet, reducing the average age of the CTA's fleet to around 10 years by 2022. The CTA issued an Invitation for Bids in February 2013 for the railcars and expects to select a manufacturer by January 2014.

These railcars, expected to begin delivery around 2016, will replace current rail stock that is nearing or beyond 30 years of age. Replacement of these aging cars will reduce service delays from mechanical breakdowns and save millions of dollars in operating costs.

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