Chicago’s Metra issued a request for proposals (RFP) for at least 200 new railcars, and it is allowing manufacturers to propose alternative car designs that may address Metra’s needs better than the bi-level gallery cars that have been used in Chicago for nearly 70 years.

Proposals will be due in August and Metra hopes to finalize a deal by the end of the year. The order will be for at least 200 new cars, with options to buy up to 200 more if funding is available.

One important consideration will be to increase seating capacity. Since yard space and platform length currently limit the number and length of trains that can operate, increasing the seating capacity is a relatively fast and efficient way to meet increased ridership demand within the agency’s physical confines.

In addition, Metra officials said the interior design of the seats, aisles, stairwells, and doors must create the most efficient passenger flow possible. The seats must have arm rests and cup holders, and manufacturers have the option of proposing features such as USB ports, foot rests and tray tables with the seats. Heated floors also can be proposed as an option.

The new cars also must include bike racks for two to five bikes, a camera/DVR system for the passenger area, and LED lighting. Onboard Wi-Fi may be proposed as an option; but if the proposal does not include Wi-Fi, there must be provisions for it to be added later.

Some alternative car designs now available have lower, platform-level boarding that could benefit ADA customers and families with strollers when boarding and detraining. Others have different side-loading door configurations that could potentially decrease the time it takes passengers to board and exit the train, which could also speed train trips.

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