Skip to Content
Streetsblog Chicago home
Streetsblog Chicago home
Log In
Chicago Policy

Chicago Blues: Transit advocates react to new CTA 7000-Series railcars

A 7000-series trail next to one of the old 3200-series trains at O’Hare station. Photo: Kyle Lucas

If you're like me and dislike the mostly aisle-facing seating on the CTA's 5000-series railcars, which were introduced a decade ago, since that layout gives you less elbow room and makes it harder to look out the windows, the arrival of the new 7000-series cars, which have more front-facing seats, is good news.

Today the transit agency announced that the new carriages, which it called "the most modern in the United States" (which isn't saying much), are being tested in service along the Blue Line. Here's a train with 7000-series cars pulling into the Logan Square station.

The CTA says other new aspects of the trains that won't be obvious to passengers include new touchscreen controls for train drivers with "improved" operator notifications for safer operation and troubleshooting help.

The LCD screens on the walls near the doors of rail cars display security camera images of passengers to deter crime. "The screens show a variety of customer information, and will also provide live views from the cameras onboard the railcars," s CTA spokesperson told me. "This will help promote awareness for customers, and we believe will serve as a deterrent to any would-be criminals." However, I'm guessing some riders may argue the screens raise privacy issues.

The new headlight configuration. Photo: CTA
The new headlight configuration. Photo: CTA
The new headlight configuration. Photo: CTA

The transit agency has been testing 10 prototype railcars since last fall, running them out-of-service on each of the eight rail lines. The carriages will continue in-service testing through early next year. If they're deemed a success, production and delivery will begin on the rest of the 390 cars in the contract.

New metal rings for "straphangers" to grab onto. Photo: CTA
New metal rings for "straphangers" to grab onto. Photo: CTA
New metal rings for "straphangers" to grab onto. Photo: CTA

I asked local transit advocates for their thoughts on the new carriages. Architect David Cole tweeted that he's looking forward to riding the new cars but "CTA rolling stock is long overdue for a major redesign. Aside from incremental piecemeal upgrades, the basic design hasn't changed much since the 2400-series cars were introduced in 1976."

Obviously designed for the convenience of cleaning and maintenance staff over passenger comfort, the interiors still look like something you’d find in a former Soviet Bloc country. pic.twitter.com/jdOAftTPyJ

— David Cole, AIA (@DavidColeAIA) April 21, 2021

Cole said innovations on his wish list for future CTA train orders include all-aisle-facing seating, which he argued is needed due to the narrowness of CTA trains; open gangways like Asian and European railcars (see images below); and "for the love of God, air brakes – CTA’s streetcar-based electric brakes create flat spots on the wheels, making the trains incredibly noisy." Read his full thread here.

This problem is hardly unique to the CTA, but they’re consistently the most backward and hidebound when it comes to train design in the US. Compared to their European and Asian counterparts, American transit vehicles look more like detention facilities. pic.twitter.com/w6yi8QByqK

— David Cole, AIA (@DavidColeAIA) April 21, 2021

Other's had a more glass-half-full view of the new cars. "Very old fashioned looking inside and out, but if the performance is better, I guess that’s what counts!" said one of my Twitter followers. "They look sick," which means stylish and attractive, according to another.

More information on the 7000-series cars is available here.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog Chicago

We are all in an underperforming Chicagoland transit network. But some of us are looking at the Star:Line.

According to Star:Line Chicago, "The 2034sight Plan is an ambitious — and achievable — ten-year framework to lay the groundwork to modernize Chicagoland’s existing local passenger rail system."

July 19, 2024

A semi driver fatally struck a person walking on Lower Wacker Drive. Did a locked gate contribute to the crash?

The victim may have been walking in the street because a gate limiting pedestrian access on the south side of Wacker was locked at the time.

July 19, 2024

This is Grand! CDOT cuts ribbon on new protected bike lanes on a key West Side diagonal street

The project also has lots of other nifty Complete Streets features, like raised crosswalks, bus islands, and the conversion of a dangerous slip lane to a new plaza.

July 18, 2024
See all posts