The Electric Commentary

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The CTA Conspiracy

Last summer the Chicago Transit Authority did a lot of whining and threatened to shut down a bunch of train lines if its funding was not increased. They claimed that rush hour service would be greatly reduced, inconveniencing me and thousands of others. This was all a bluff, of course. When you're trying to save cash you don't reduce your profitable runs, you reduce your empty runs.

Anyway, the state caved and gave them more cash. And how do they respond?

By spending $577 million on 406 new cars:

As soon as 2009, elevated train riders could experience a quieter, smoother ride on new rail cars because of a $577 million contract approved Wednesday by the Chicago Transit Authority board.

Now, the current cars are not great, I'll admit that, but $577 million seems like a lot of money. Heck, someone in Milwaukee just proposed building an entire train system (actually, it's some weird train/bus hybrid) for only $300 million (which is a ridiculously low figure, and clearly a lie. It was eventually vetoed.)

Still, if the improvements were great enough I might be persuaded, but instead this seems like a continuation of the CTA's plan to force everyone seated on a CTA vehicle to stare at the "junk" of the standing passengers. The old CTA buses had mostly front-facing seats until last summer, when they started replacing them with new buses with inward facing seats. Then they changed the Brown Line in the same fashion.

Now they plan to make the switch on every train:

The train cars, which will be tested for up to a year, will have aisle-facing seating and increased aisle room, making it easier for people to lug baggage on the train and spread out inside the car. While the number of seats--40--won't change, the new cars will have more amenities: two wheelchair positions, seven security cameras, electronic maps and destination signs, officials said.

Inward-facing seats are bad for two reasons:

1. They make some people sick, and there's enough puke on the trains already.

2. The aforementioned nad-staring problem.

And for what? To add an extra wheel-chair space? I'm all for supporting the handicapped, but I've never before witnessed two wheelchair bound people get on the same train car at the same time.

I should also note that one of their justifications, to "ease entry into the cars" is also a lie. The seats near the doors already are inward-facing.

I don't know what sick fascination the CTA has with the crotches of others, but I'm sick of them basing policy on it.


  • Sounds like from the new doodads (seven security cameras, electronic maps and destination signs) that maybe part of it is to make the cars look better for visitors (tourists or business). Daley likes spending money to make the city look nice for people with money, which isn't necessarily the worst strategy. This is why the blue line cars are pretty nifty seeming compared to the other lines.

    By Blogger Scott H, at 10:15 PM  

  • That makes sense. I still think it's all about the nuts.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 7:58 AM  

  • Of course, the inward-facing seats are much better for the abnormally tall. At 6'6", my legs don't fit into the forward facing seats, which seem to have been designed with Sean Astin in mind. If I can't get an inward-facing seat, I have to either stand or sit awkwardly sideways. I say bring on the new design. Though to save money, couldn't we retrofit the exisitng rolling stock instead? I guess it's just not the Chicago way...

    P.S. Chalk it up to grass always being greener... I ride the blue line every day, and I always thought the red/purple/brown cars were nicer. So I guess scott h & I think differently.

    By Anonymous Keith, at 8:29 AM  

  • You're right. Those inward facing seats are meant to cater to your fantasies about the body parts that are hidden by the clothing in front of you. But there's another reason as well:

    A bus or train can hold many more people standing than seated. The inward facing seats leave more room for people to stand. And those wider aisles make it easier for people to move past others to fill the open spaces. It's so effective that the CTA is only converting a portion of the seating to inward facing because the cars aren't designed to handle the potential additional load if all the seats faced inward.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:39 PM  

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