CTA to Begin In-Service Testing of New Rail Cars

April 15, 2010

The Chicago Transit Authority today introduced prototypes of the agency's new 5000-series rail cars and announced that the cars will begin testing in passenger service starting next week. These new additions to the rail fleet offer a number of customer amenities in addition to added safety features and technologies that will enhance operations and maintenance and provide a smoother, more comfortable ride. 

The 5000-series prototypes – which have been undergoing testing by CTA engineers and representatives from the manufacturer for the last several months – will begin service on the Red Line and then will be tested on all eight rail lines through at least the end of the year. This in-service testing is the next step in the agency’s evaluation of the 10 rail car prototypes to determine how they perform when operating in the conditions that CTA's rail fleet is subject to throughout the year. The cars must successfully complete testing before the CTA will finalize the order of the remaining 396 rail cars.
The prototype rail cars are similar in exterior appearance to the CTA's 3200-series cars that operate on the Orange and Brown lines. The new rail cars will replace CTA's oldest rail cars, between 32 and 41 years old, such as the 2200-series Budd cars that were purchased in 1969-70 and currently run on the Blue Line, as well as the 2400-series Boeing-Vertol cars purchased in 1976-78 currently operating on the Green and Purple lines.
The rail cars offer a variety of new features and technologies to benefit CTA customers. Among them are:


There are seven networked security cameras per rail car and other additional safety features – glow-in-the-dark safety signs and floor strips outlining aisles and doorways in the event the car loses lights due to lack of power, an event recorder system similar to a black box on an airplane and sensitive door sensors that will detect obstructions better than CTA's current rail fleet.
There are also a number of safety features that are not on the prototype rail cars, but will be included on the final order, including: the ability for the rail operator to view the interior of each rail car and speak to the people in that rail car via active passenger intercom. The Chicago Police Department will have remote video surveillance access and CTA’s Control Center will be able to make emergency audio and send emergency text messages to the LED signs inside of the train.


A new aisle-facing seating configuration accommodates more customers per car. The seating arrangement adds six inches to the narrowest portion of the aisle which allows more room for customers carrying backpacks, packages, luggage, strollers and bikes. In addition, the configuration provides 38 seats and space for two wheelchair positions and added support poles and hand straps in the center of the car for standing customers.
Other amenities include: an LED station indicator map with lights that move in conjunction with the train's location and electronic destination signs – widened to increase the size of the text, thereby improving readability – both inside and outside of the rail car.

Efficiency and Reliability

The 5000-series cars use regenerative braking technology. The AC (alternating current) propulsion system can reduce power consumption of the rail car by returning braking energy to the third rail for reuse to help power other trains and on-board electrical systems. In the CTA's older rail cars, the energy returned through the train braking is converted to heat and dissipated into the outside air.
In addition, new diagnostic systems will alert a train operator to any issues with equipment when they occur, on a digital display in the motor cab. This allows CTA personnel to detect, troubleshoot and fix problems more quickly if something happens while a train is in service, and also provides a record of conditions and performance when the cars make it back to the shops for maintenance or repair.


The existing CTA fleet uses DC (direct current) motors to drive trains. The new cars will use AC propulsion to convert the DC energy in the third (power) rail to alternating current for the traction motors.  AC propulsion systems provide a smoother ride and are used by other major transit agencies including New York, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta.
New heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems will keep cars at carefully calibrated temperatures, even in the most severe weather conditions.
Prior to this contract, 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.
Through a competitive RFP process, CTA selected Bombardier Transportation – located in Bensalem, Pennsylvania – to manufacture the cars.
The CTA is using capital funding from the Federal Transit Administration and Illinois Department of Transportation in addition to revenue bonds to purchase the rail cars. The total cost for the 406 rail cars is $603.6 million.
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