By Jon Hilkevitch
7:09 PM CST, February 13, 2013
If 706 rail cars with center-facing seats are 706 too many for some CTA riders who hate being squeezed from both sides and having their view of the city replaced by the paunch of standing passengers, well, 714 of the same cars doesn’t have any better ring to it.
But the CTA board, without public discussion about riders’ reaction to the new rail fleet, on Wednesday unanimously approved a CTA staff recommendation to supplement the original purchase by buying eight additional Bombardier Transportation cars with the aisle-facing seats.
The primary reason for the mini spending spree is that the CTA amassed an estimated $30 million credit with Bombardier. After ordering too many spare parts for the 5000 Series rail cars under the 2006 contract, the CTA subsequently reduced the spare parts procurement, said Phil Lamont, CTA vice president of bus and rail maintenance.
The CTA then struck a deal with Bombardier on the eight extra cars — about $300,000 off the sticker price of each car, officials said.
In addition, part of the credit will be used to replace the fluorescent interior lighting with LED fixtures on all 714 rail cars. The LED lights are brighter, use less electricity and last longer, officials said.
“The traditional fluorescent lights, as time goes by, they yellow, whereas the LEDs will retain their clean, bright look,’’ CTA President Forrest Claypool said.
The contract changes on the 5000 Series fleet have helped the CTA retire the $30 million credit balance, officials said.
The CTA will pay $1,034,831 for each of the eight extra cars. The per-car cost was $1,336,596 in the initial order, officials said.
As part of the upgrade, the CTA agreed to make an accelerated payment of $61 million to Bombardier for the rail car contract, which totals more than $1.14 billion.
Bombardier has delivered 202 cars to the CTA, officials said. The remaining cars, arriving at a rate of one per weekday, will be delivered through 2015.
More cars will follow.
The CTA last week requested design and bid proposals from rail car manufacturers for a potential order of up to 846 next-generation rail cars, to be called the 7000 Series.
The CTA said it plans to spend up to $2 billion on the cars, which could start rolling off assembly lines as early as 2016.
Transit officials promised to conduct customer surveys about rider preferences for seating and other comfort-related features, observe commuters on trains, and conduct other analysis before making decisions on the 7000 Series design.
“This is the first design I am overseeing, and we are going to do the type of research to get it right,’’ Claypool said.
Meanwhile, CTA Chairman Terry Peterson announced specific start and end dates — May 19 and Oct. 19 — for the $425 million project to renovate the tracks on the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line.
The branch will be closed between Cermak-Chinatown and 95th Street over the five months, officials said. Alternative shuttle bus service to the Green Line will be offered.
CTA officials also are negotiating with Metra to possibly expand service temporarily on the Electric District, Peterson said.
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