Chicago Sun-Times

What's the big deal?

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The CTA is ordering hundreds of new rail cars that will likely have New York-style aisle-facing seats. The seating configuration creates more aisle space and makes it easier for passengers to get on and off.

But for some reason, many Chicagoans hate the idea.

How come? Does facing your fellow rider make it that much harder to ignore them or something?

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Forward-facing seats disturb me for the following reason:

I have to add: Got chews, fruit chews, tootsie rolls, one doliar; got body oils, two for ten: (don't ask me how their math works,
I guess this is the time to haggle for two for eight? but loose squares, loose squares!
Got pepper mace, bow-rettes, I.D. wallets, again with the loose squares, loose sqaures....*sigh*...

ALSO, this is going to be interesting to view how many riders will snap off and fights begin when the above scenario
inevitably happens while the LOUD AS I WANT TO BE CELL-PHONE TALKER sitting next to you is screaming into the cell phone.

Forward-facing seats disturb me for the following reason:

1. Homeless person naptime;

2. Nose-pickers;

3. Men (and women, but primarily men) who sit with their legs spread;

4. No, I do NOT have spare change;

5. Creepy I-am-going-to-stare-at-you guy;

6. Deodorant-less standers;

7. Squishers (the people who BY GOD are going to sit down whether there is room or not);

8. The witnessing religious...

The list could go on and on.

"Does facing your fellow rider make it that much harder to ignore them or something."

This reminds me of something I used to do as a child: I'd sit in the aisle-facing seats at the front of the bus and make fun of the adults facing me on the opposite side. It was hilarious.

Who's gonna pay for that? I don't have 20 million (Chicago Translation: 250 million) lying around. If they're making such a bold move now, they must be assuming that the CTA bill will bring in a lot of extra tax revenue. In today's economy, where people are reluctant to spend and foreclosures are out of control, there's no guarantee of that.

Why would I want to sit on a crowded train, looking at an LCD screen with some bogus message about "signal clearings"? I already know the train is running late; if were running on time then I wouldn't be sitting on the train, I'd already be at wherever it was that I was going.

To gerry: Thanks for calling me a coward, that was friendly.

Anyway....It's true that the funding came from the feds for this project. But why did the CTA choose to spend all of their money on upgrades when they were in the red? I know these are needed infrastructure upgrades, but when you're broke, you don't go out and but a new flat screen TV. The federal government should have been giving the CTA a loan to fix it's budgets issues, IMO.

And isn't the timing of this a little to close to the announcement of this bailout? Just makes them look bad even if it's not related, IMO.

For years I've thought that the CTA should have never been privately owned. Sure there are some benefits to having a private enterprise run a business free from government constraints. But since this is PUBLIC transportation and it's call the CHICAGO transit authority, you'd think the city would take action to run such an important resource well. After all these years run by private enterprise, what have we got to show for it?

As to the new trains, I can see both sides of the issue and I've ridden trains across the country, from NYC, DC, BART & L.A. On one hand, you have to sit sideways on the new train design, which is slightly cramped and uncomfortable while doing some things on the train like reading and using a laptop. And as someone else mentioned, when the trains lurch forward and back, you have to brace yourself and you do bump the people next to you. And because the seats will be flat, you'll slide slightly from side to side as well

The forward facing seats on the other hand offer a more comfortable ride while obviously sacrificing aisle space. But the advantage to forward facing seats are that they are somewhat safer in case of a sudden stop. You have a bar in front of you in every seat to grab onto, not the case on the side facing seats. The older seating is also nicer for sightseeing while looking out of the windows. I know I enjoy a window seat when I take the Brown line around the Loop.

I know that some uptight transplanted commuters will argue that being cramped on a train ride from downtown is something they'd rather avoid, but It's part of the Chicago experience. If we change the trains to side facing "efficient" designs, only the CTA truly benefits. I'd rather sacrifice a little aisle space and a few minutes, so that I can enjoy the ride and look out the window.

A compromise would be to run a few trains with the new seating on the busiest lines at peaks hour to ease congestion. And then run the regular trains the rest of the time and on certain lines. There should be a compromise made so that everyone is happy.

Well, Steve, two things. 1.) The trains in NYC are larger and wider because their train tunnels can accommodate the larger cars. Here our smaller tunnels and elevated tracks cannot be compared with what they do there. 2.) This is Chicago. Advocating anything as being good 'cause they like it in New York, is just about a perfect deal killer. You know, like Macy's.

After seeing the pictures, I have to say that the CTA trains will continue to be the ugliest (with the poorest style) in the entire world. Check out the link for my favorite one.

This is a GREAT idea. The picture doesn't really do it justice, there will be more seating like NYC style- the rendering just doesn't portray it well.

I am a Chgo native who travels to NYC a lot and their trains' interiors have us beat. We need to catch up.

The grouping of people by the doors here just doesn't happen on the NYC Metro.

Relax, it's a good thing.

i hope this is Ok with the senior crowd who will be riding free

County: Exactly what planet do you live on?
The CTA's L cars are at the maximum length now. The train cars length is governed by the turns of the Loop L at Lake/Wells, Lake/Wabash, Van Buren/Wells, Van Buren/Wabash, the triple turn at North/Halsted & the S turn at Sheridan/Irving Park.

As for the proposed seating: Everyone that rides the L hates it.
So the geniuses that run the CTA will put this hated seating arrangement into the first 50 or so cars, the reaction will be so angry, the problems will be extreme when the homeless decide it's a great place to sleep, that they will have to spend more of their scarce dollars to change it back to what we've had for over 100 years!
If you sit facing the other side of the car, why even bother with windows?

getting new seats and trains would be okay once cta gets out of the red. why waste more money on something that you really dont need right now. focus on one thing at a time. it would be cool to have new and improve things with cta, but focus on whats needed now. if you do get new seats and trains, cta will have another dooms day why? because they spent all there money on something that they dont need. why put something so new on broken down train tracks? unless, they plain on getting new tracks, which means more money. than what are they going to do about shutting down those train lines while under construction? people traveling to n from work. rush hour traffic, means more slow buses. cta does think about all these things, before they try another project.

I welcome the new seats. I board the Blue Line at Division and it is often packed to capacity and many times I can't even get on the train. I've ridden subways around the world and have seen first hand how well this type of seating works and if by using it the CTA can increase the capacity of their rail cars, I welcome it, perhaps then I'll actually be able to squeeze myself on one more often.

... and for all of you idiots moaning on about the whole doomsday thing, read the freakin' article, the cars have already been paid for.

What they need to do first is to totally revamp the bus and train schedules for efficiency.

Second, we need better transit (EL) going north to south.
Transit is horrific on the southside. One example, I have taken the 55X. Express? Ha Ha It takes 1 1/2+ for the entire trip. That is not express.

They need to improve the system first before blowing money on new trains.

Instead of spending money on the trains, why don't they spend money to fix the tracks that are in disrepair and causing "slow zones". I'd hate to have to stand on the new trains for an hour getting out of the city on the Blue Line.

Great Blog Gerry. Yea you are right! More things to f- up. I do not care where the money is coming from because in the end we are all paying for it.

Do not get me started with the whole educational funding issues. The same crap will go on that is going on with the transportation issues.

More money to give to their crony friends. Like they say" Get Your House In Order First"

Is or isn't the CTA broke?

Didn't we just go through some fiasco about funding for the CTA?

I don't give a hoot about new seats.

CTA, Ron Hubberman,
Put this money to better use--like to not raise the fare next year. I was told by a CTA bus driver that next year the fare is going up.

But I get it--The Mayor wants to have this new system in time for the olympics, I bet. Nice that he thinks of the regular Chicago folks first!

Hopefully there will be room for luggage of passengers instead of suitcases in the aisles.

First of all, you can fit as many (or very nearly as many) aisle-facing seats on a car as you can front/rear-facing ones, just end up with such a more efficient use of the space, you can also fit more standees.

Second of all, to "J Smith" (likely a cowardly fake name) and "Mary" and all the other people who complain that the CTA is incompetent but who are themselves such lazy slackers that they can't be bothered to learn the issues, the CTA has needed new railcars for many years and has never hidden that issue. Operating funding took recent priority because it was the most immediate need, but both the Tribune and Sun-Times had multiple stories on the additional infrastructure needs (that includes rail cars and buses).

Chicagoans who complain about the new configuration also obviously don't travel much, as the configurations aren't uncommon and are well-received all over the world. I hope the CTA will realize that, once they use them, Chicagoans will like the new cars, too. At least the Chicagoans who actually RIDE the cars will - sometimes I think the biggest complainers are people who don't even know where the "L" stop nearest them is.

Finally, people don't want fares to go up, but they also want the CTA to improve efficiency - and one way to do that is by increasing the number of riders per car (and with aisle-facing solutions, the numbers of seats remains nearly the same). Can't have it both ways, people. Personally, I wish the CTA would run some of the rush-hour Brown Line trains with no seats, as then I wouldn't have to let 3-4 trains go by before I can even get on one - forget about getting a seat. I'd much rather stand on the moving train than on the platform.

why bother getting nicer interiors when most punks riding the "L" dont give a crap keeping it clean. dirty aisles, sticky seats, too many chicken bones on the floor at each end of the compartments in the red line. YUCK.

and dont forget the smelly homeless people taking up both seats
and passed out. so now we'll have bench seats and they'll be able to lay down completely stretched out in luxury.

Have any of you people ridden a train during rush hour? There is no room in the trains and there aren't enough places to hold onto. Getting out of a cramped CTA train is an obstacle course...and people actually prefer the old trains? Face it, more people are using the CTA and the only way to increase capacity is to change the outdated design of the el cars. The new design works just fine in pretty much every other mass transit system.

As for the people who bring up the cost of the trains, they were paid for in 2006 with federal money. The current trains (average age 25 years old) would have been replaced years ago if mass transit was adequately funded.

Why are we assuming there will be less seats? The cars will have extended length and offer the same amount of actual seats that currently exist on the L cars today. The seats are just set up differently which enables more standing room and more room to walk around standing passengers. Same amount of seats.

So, thus far, the comments indicate that people would rather ride forward (but not during the am/pm rush when they would likely be standing and squeezing past people because there currently is not enough room for standees on the L) and wait longer for trains because more would be at capacity? The proposed seating structure is used in New York, Tokyo and London and after riding on each, and being a lifelong L rider, I can say that during peak usage the other cities have it right. Of course the CTA wants to put more people on the trains and have larger capacities. Larger capacities = less cars needed = more cars to form additional trains = more trains = shorter wait times. I'd rather stand and have my commute last 20 mins than wait as full trains pass by or squeeze into a packed L car that makes me feel like I owe someone dinner after I brush past them to exit.

And the sleeping on the seats argument is foolish.

I thought they didnt have any money!!! I have to pay more in my taxes now because these idiots need to know on a plasma screen that they will get to their destination in 10 minutes instead of 5. Who voted for these people????? And how do we get them out of office. WOW!

The new seating looks as of more people will stand which is an upcomfortable considering the length of lines like the Blue and Red Lines. Especially after working all day, the last thing I want to stand for a long time coming out of the Loop. Please do not reduce the number of seats per car!

The CTA has been gradually phasing out seats on subways and buses for some time now, and turning more of the remaining seats into torture devices that involve sitting any which way but forward and sometimes with no place to put your feet. They want the default position to be standing up, so they can jam more people in. Never mind how bad an experience it may be for the rider, especially those traveling a longer distance. People, let's push back on this before it's too late. Mr. Huberman, are you listening?

Even now, sitting sideways is much less comfortable--it causes you to bump your fellow riders when the train or bus lurches--also it's more difficult to hold your commuter bag on your lap and read at the same time. They don't disapprove of reading--do they?

For J Smith and other people who question the timing of this story, I should clarify that these rail cars were ordered in 2006 with federal money that the CTA has already secured.

The changes announced today will cost an additional $26.6 million, but according to the CTA, this will also be covered with federal money that the CTA is getting from the Federal Transit Administration. So, the bailout money from the state won't be used for this, they say.

Horrible idea -- they floated this stupid idea about a year and a half ago for trains and buses and people on the test routes said they hated it. I doubt that time has changed anyone's minds. People do prefer to be seated and face forwards (or backwards) when traveling -- not facing sideways or being forced to stand because of loss of seats. The CTA only wants to do this in order to cram more people into the cars. They have even said as much ("increase capacity...."). That means those hoardes of extra standing passengers will have to contend with holding onto grab straps hanging from the ceiling, a la New York City transit. I'd sooner stick my hand into a public toilet than grab one of those feculent fabric grab straps. And yes, being seated crammed five or six abreast, facing sideways, with some standing person's arm pit waving about in front of me sounds like an additionally disgusting insult. I object. about the fact that, judging by the picture, the trains with aisle-facing seats will have a LOT fewer places to sit. Why make more people stand? I doubt the CTA bigwigs who will make this decision spend much time standing on moving trains.

This is kinda ridiculous. For one, the CTA just got bailed out by new government tax contract. Now all of a sudden they need new trains? Why not make the trains they have work for them until they are out of the red? I think the CTA's priorities are whacked. New stations and new trains, but we have no money to pay for any of it.


The biggest problem with the new seats, is the potential for those less considerate riders to sprawl out to sleep on the seats. I take the train at 5:00 am and some days it is hard to find a seat that doesn't have someone sleeping and taking up two seats to nap.

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This page contains a single entry by Monifa Thomas published on January 23, 2008 2:22 PM.

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