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Anatomy of a rail car: Deconstructing the CTA's hot new thing

By Tracy Swartz | RedEye

The new CTA rail cars by most accounts provide a smoother ride than the current cars, but they've had their share of bumps. The 10 prototype 5000-series cars, which began testing last year and finished first-round testing on each line last month, have some riders steamed. While most seem to be on board with the cars' new electronic signs, smooth propulsion system and security cameras, some riders have railed against the cars' aisle-facing seats, which are similar to the trains in New York and require riders to sit side by side and face the extremities of riders standing in the aisle. "You have people standing in front of you, so you get to look at their butts or crotches, depending on how they stand," Dave Kalsch, 54, of Jefferson Park, wrote to RedEye. "I sure hope they send these new cars back to New York or wherever they came from." Having traveled all eight CTA routes, the new cars returned to the Red Line in mid-February to begin their second round of testing. CTA President Rich Rodriguez said the agency still is evaluating the cars, including testing them through each season to see if any problems arise. In May, the cars were pulled because of glitches in the braking system. They came back on track in July after modifications were made to the brakes. Shipments of additional cars are expected to begin over the next couple of years, which means if you haven't seen them yet, you might soon on an "L" line near you. Nearly 400 cars are on order, to the tune of more than $600 million. The cars are expected to replace the oldest cars of the CTA's fleet, including those on the Blue Line, which feature folding doors that aren't accessible for people with disabilities. tswartz@tribune.com

By Tracy Swartz I RedEye
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