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CTA To Buy $2 Billion In New Train Cars Everyone Will Hate

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 8, 2013 2:30PM

Inside one of the new Bombardier 5000-series rail cars. (Photo via the CTA's Flickr page.)

The Chicago Transit Authority announced Wednesday they were opening the bidding process to find a manufacturer for the new 7000 Series "L" cars, the latest step in the agency's ongoing attempt to modernize a rail fleet that's over 30 years old—other transit agencies cycle out their fleet after 20 years.

It's unknown at this time how the 7000 Series will differ from the new 5000 Series rail cars from Bombardier Transportation, those smooth-riding and well-lighted cars that CTA riders still hate with a passion because of the aisle-facing seating, straps and the crotch level views of standing passengers enjoyed by their seated counterparts that haven't succumbed to the Natural Order of the People of the CTA. This time, though, CTA is leaving the seating configuration up to the bidder so we may see a return to the traverse-style seating riders of the Green, Pink and now Red lines are nostalgic for. Or we could get rail cars with New York-style bench seating.

What's also unknown is how CTA will pay for the cars. Marcus Gilmer broke down the per car cost of the 846 car order to $2.4 million per car and asked: Where will CTA, always walking around with their collective pockets turned out to show their penury, find the money?

No one from CTA would tell Crain's Greg Hinz but Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement the new cars will begin arriving in 2016 and be completed by 2022, once a manufacturer is named.

"Having world-class public transportation is essential for any world-class city," Mr. Emanuel said. "By strengthening our transportation we will continue Chicago's economic growth and increase the quality of life for all residents."

(An aside: We should have a drinking game where we take a shot every time Emanuel says "world-class city." But we would fear for the long-term health of our livers.)

Looks like some former Beltway vulgarian is anticipating the arrival of some federal funds for this project.