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CTA Purchases New Train Cars, Unions Reject Concessions

By Lindsey Miller in News on Feb 11, 2010 10:30PM

Photo by trippchicago
Next time you're at a CTA train station, If the rail cars you watch zoom by look somehow shinier and newer - the old route map and destination signs have been replaced with electronic versions, there's a surveillance camera on board, and the seats all face center - they probably are. The CTA is testing new, upgraded rail cars that will eventually replace in-use cars that are 30 or 40 years old.

Yesterday, the Chicago Transit Board authorized the CTA to issue revenue bonds to pay for 406 rail cars. The new cars will cost $674 million. As part of the purchase contract, it has the option of buying another 300 cars if funding becomes available. Among other improvements, the cars will feature stain- and bacteria-resistant center-facing seats, which will accommodate more riders. In addition, its traction motor propulsion will operate on an AC (alternating current) system instead of the outdated DC (direct current) system it currently uses. According to the Chicago Tribune, the AC system allows for smoother acceleration and braking, which will make for quieter rides and lower operating and maintenance costs.

If you're worried that these fancy new cars will make the transit dooms-period worse, don't. The CTA is using funds from its capital budget, which is separate from the operational budget that it uses to pay for service and labor.

Speaking of labor, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 (which represents rail workers) had its monthly meeting yesterday where it discussed, among other things, the concessions it would offer to the CTA to help reduce the budget shortfall and restore service and jobs. According to an ATU press release, union members overwhelming said "no" to concessions -- President Robert Kelly says the general consensus at the meeting was "we did not create this mess and, [having given] so many concessions over the past 15 years, we are tired of being the scapegoats." Both the Local 308 and the Local 241 (serving bus workers) are calling for Washington to come and help the CTA find a long-term funding solution.