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CTA buys rail cars at ‘bargain price,’ adds brighter interior lights

CTA trains travel down W. Lake St. Chicago Ill. Thursday November 15 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

CTA trains travel down W. Lake St. in Chicago, Ill., on Thursday, November 15, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 15, 2013 1:46PM

The CTA agreed Wednesday to purchase eight more new-generation rail cars with aisle-facing seats at a “bargain price’’ and to tweak the interior lighting on all such cars.

The money for the new LED lighting comes as part of a $30 million credit from an overestimation of spare parts needed for the Series 5000 cars, CTA President Forrest Claypool said.

CTA Board members Wednesday agreed to spend $15 million of that credit. Part of it also will buy eight additional Series 5000 cars for $1.03 million each, which Claypool called a “bargain price.’’ That’s a $300,000 discount from the current price of $1.3 million each.

Claypool touted the new lights as longer-lasting and “brighter, cleaner.”

“I felt the lighting difference was significant,’’ Claypool told reporters after Wednesday’s CTA board meeting. “The traditional fluorescent lights, as time goes by, they yellow, there’s a dimming yellowish tint that comes from the breakdown of the chemicals.’’

The brighter LED interior light also will enhance safety by providing greater clarity for CTA surveillance cameras inside the new rail cars, Claypool said.

Some 200 Series 5000 cars now in service will be retrofitted with the new lighting; about 500 more will be upgraded before they leave the Bombardier plant for Chicago, officials said.

Asked about riders’ complaints about the aisle-facing Series 5000 seats, Claypool conceded, “I know it’s an issue for some people.’’

But he noted that disabled riders have “very vocal in supporting it.’’

Before the deal for the next generation of rail cars, the 7000 series, is completed, the CTA will conduct customer surveys and observational research about customer movement inside the series 5000 cars, Claypool said.

“This is obviously the first design [of a new rail car] that I’m doing and we’re going to do the type of research to get it right,’’ Claypool said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, CTA President Terry Peterson said the massive Red Line reconstruction project will run from May 19 to Oct. 19. During that time, the Red Line will be shut from Cermak to 95th Street. Free shuttle buses and more frequent runs on existing buses are planned.

CTA officials also said Wednesday that ridership was up in 2012 for the second year in a row. It increased 2.4 percent, with rail usage alone hitting a 50-year high. To maintain that pace, Claypool said, the CTA wants to continue to upgrade its fleet and maintain “quality of service.’’

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