January 28, 2005

AC Propulsion Power, Security Cameras and Aisle-Facing Seating Included in Bid Criteria

The Chicago Transit Authority today issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the manufacture of new rail cars. The RFP includes upgraded features as part of the bid criteria such as AC (alternating current) propulsion, security cameras and aisle-facing seating. The RFP calls for a base order of 206 rail cars with additional options that could bring the total purchase to 706 cars. Bids generated from the RFP are expected to be opened in mid-2005, with delivery expected to begin in 2008.

The rail cars will replace older rail cars, some more than 30 years old, such as the 2200-series Budd cars that were purchased in 1969-70, as well as the 2400-series Boeing-Vertol cars purchased in 1976-78. CTA's most recent purchase of new rail cars was in the 1990s when 3200-series cars were purchased for the opening of the Orange Line, and to replace older cars on the Brown and Yellow Lines. Plans for the manufacture of new rail cars are part of long term capital improvement plans to upgrade the quality of CTA's rail and bus fleet.

"With the loss of Illinois FIRST, the state's capital funding program, CTA's funding is shrinking both on the capital side as well as the operational side and we must carefully evaluate how to apply the limited funds that remain. Though planning a new rail car purchase may at first appear contradictory as we are faced with possible service cuts and layoffs, we cannot be short-sighted. We must continue to look to the future of transit in this region," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. "Improving our infrastructure is not a process to which we can commit and then abandon. The CTA provides an essential service to this region and we have worked hard to rebuild the infrastructure and bring it into a state of good repair."

"We must continue to use our capital dollars to invest in our system so that we don't lose the momentum we've gained over the past decade," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. "We are grateful to the region's U.S. Congressional delegation, whose bipartisan efforts have been very successful in securing capital funds to continue investment in CTA's infrastructure."

The RFP specifications call for the new rail cars to run on AC (alternating current) traction motor propulsion. The existing CTA fleet uses DC (direct current) motors to drive trains. AC propulsion converts the DC energy in the third (power) rail to alternating current for the traction motors. AC propulsion systems are used by transit agencies in New York, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, among others.

"The business decision to switch to AC power is a major shift for the CTA. We have been examining the benefits of AC propulsion for some time now which is why we decided to take a different approach to the purchase of new 'L' cars," explained Kruesi. "DC systems, such as the one in use at CTA, are becoming obsolete. Converting to a more modern AC system will improve reliability and reduce the growing cost of maintaining an outdated system. For example, there are more equipment suppliers for AC motors than for DC, so the supply will be more reliable and the costs more competitive."

Through regeneration, AC propulsion offers power savings. Some of the power used to accelerate the train can be recovered and put back into the power (third) rail when stopping the train. This provides additional power to accelerate other trains and reduces the total amount of energy required to run the system. On trains using DC propulsion systems, the braking energy is dissipated as heat.

"We remain hopeful that the Illinois General Assembly will help fix the region's operating funding for public transit so that CTA can fully utilize its improving fleet and infrastructure," commented Brown. "CTA remains dedicated to providing the best service, equipment and facilities possible to our customers with the resources available."

In addition to AC propulsion, the CTA's RFP calls for rail cars with an aisle-facing seating configuration. Urban railways in major cities such as New York, Boston, London, Paris and Tokyo use aisle-facing seating to more comfortably accommodate a large volume of passengers, key for systems with heavy customer loads such as the CTA which provides nearly 500,000 rides on its rail system on an average weekday. With the new rail car configuration the CTA will be able to accommodate more customers per rail car and provide a more comfortable trip, a priority for the second largest transit system in the country. Customers carrying backpacks, packages, luggage, strollers and bikes will have more room to maneuver. Additionally, the new configuration allows for one more wheelchair position (two per car) than the current configuration (one per car).

CTA tested aisle-facing seating on two rail cars earlier this year. The reconfigured rail car seating was incorporated in the RFP following observation and analysis, and customer comment. The aisle-facing seating configuration adds six-inches to the narrowest portion of the aisle; more space for standing customers with more support poles and straps in the center of the car; and can accommodate 39 seats (no seats are lost in the reconfiguration).

CTA is using capital funding from the Federal Transit Administration Formula Funds 5309, and funds from the Illinois Department of Transportation.


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