Friday, March 19, 2010

New railcars arrive in Chicago

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The Chicago Transit Authority will soon begin an extended test period on the prototype trainset of its new 5000-Series rapid transit cars from Bombardier. In this photo, taken by CTA official Bruce Moffat, car no. 5009, sporting one-of-a-kind graphics, heads a four-car train that carried Federal Transit Administration officials from the Quincy/Wells “L” stop to Midway Airport and return, on the Orange Line. The prototype, delivered late last year, will undergo a testing period expected to last until year-end, according to Chief Rail Equipment Engineer Walter R. Keevil. Ten prototype cars are on the property; delivery of the balance of the 406-car order is expected to commence in 2011.

cta-series-5000-bruce-moffat.jpgOrdered in 2006 under a contract worth $603.6 million, CTA’s new 5000-Series cars will replace older equipment, some more than 30 years old, such as the 2200-Series Budd cars that were purchased in 1969-70, and the 2400-Series Boeing-Vertol cars purchased in 1976-78. The new cars feature security cameras and aisle-facing seating, and a.c. propulsion. CTA says aisle-facing seating increases passenger capacity and comfort, adding six inches to the narrowest portion of a car’s center and more space for standees, with more support poles and straps in the center of the car. Aisle-facing seating also provides space for an additional wheelchair positions, increasing the total to two per car.

The 5000-Series cars also feature wireless connectivity to their electronic systems. With this feature, train operators can view live video from any railcar when the passenger intercom unit is activated. “This will ensure that operators are better-able to immediately provide information to first responders,” CTA says. “In the future, suitably equipped emergency vehicles could also access railcar video through the wireless connection.”

Diagnostic information is available in real time to shop personnel, enabling them to quickly identify problems and develop repair strategies. “This new diagnostic system will help reduce breakdowns and ensure that when problems occur, technical troubleshooting will begin in real-time, reducing the impact on customers,” CTA said.

Onboard cellular phone modems allow the CTA Control Center to communicate directly with customers in real time via audio and text messages using speakers and six visual displays in each car.

CTA’s long-range plans involve procurement and/or rebuilding of up to 800 rapid transit cars, including options for up to 300 additional Bombardier 5000-Series cars. Should CTA exercise those options, its contract with Bombardier will be worth close to a total of $1 billion. When the initial 406 cars were ordered, it was the largest railcar contract in CTA history.