The Chicago Transit Authority today announced a pilot program to test three pairs of reduced-seating rail cars on the Brown Line in an effort to increase capacity. The reduced-seat cars will be phased into service this afternoon, running only during peak periods on the Brown Line.
"Ridership on the CTA rail system has increased 8.3% compared to last year," said CTA President Ron Huberman. "While we welcome more riders, it does present challenges during peak periods. By removing some of the seats we are able to increase the capacity for customers on the train while still providing seating for those who need it most."
The changes are part of a continued effort by the CTA to accommodate an increase in ridership. Preliminary CTA numbers for August 2008 show a ridership increase of 9.5 percent compared to August 2007. In hard numbers, that means that 1.9 million more bus rides and 808,000 more train rides were taken this August, compared to last August. For the year, ridership is up 5.3 percent compared to 2007.
The Brown Line is the third busiest line in the CTA rail system. The average weekday ridership on the Brown Line is 80,000.
The six pilot rail cars provide limited seating. The 3200 series rail cars used for the pilot originally had 39 seats. Twelve have been removed in one of the cars, 14 in the other to provide increased standing room. For every seat removed, CTA estimates that at least two riders can be accommodated. Additional stanchions and handles have been added to these cars for customer safety.
The six pilot rail cars with reduced seats will be clearly identifiable for riders before they board the train with large "MAX - High Capacity Car" decals located on both sides of the train's doors indicating they are reduced seating cars.
Although the CTA originally considered removing all the seats from designated cars, engineering tests determined that doing so could pose potential operational and safety issues. The specifications for the rail cars original design designate a load of 22,500 pounds. CTA personnel tested the weight limits of the rail cars and determined that removing all the seats for standing customers would result in a weight increase that exceeds the specified design weight limits.
While a rail car with all seats removed would still operate, stress would build up on the suspension and undercarriage and would result in reduction of the built in safety factors causing damage to the rail car body structure, suspension or undercarriage. Using a formula of estimated customer weight of 175 pounds per person, design capacity and floor spacing, personnel were able to determine how many seats could be safely removed without adversely affecting the suspension system.
The cars with reduced seating are better able to manage the extra weight distribution. In addition, by leaving seats in the cars they are better able to accommodate riders who require priority seating such as seniors and expectant mothers.
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