The latest additions to the Chicago Transit Authority rapid transit car fleet borrows from New York City the latest thing in bowling alley cars. The riders don't like them. They're too expensive to rearrange.
Replacing the longitudinal aisle-facing seating arrangement on the new rail cars with a traverse style of both forward- and rear-facing seats that are the norm in Chicago would require redesigning the 5000 Series cars to anchor the seats to new beams added to the frame, according to CTA engineers and the manufacturer, Montreal-based Bombardier Transportation.

The high-capacity cars, which can hold up to about 120 total passengers, are inconsistent with the CTA's current philosophy of "de-crowding" trains, with a goal of carrying only 70 to 75 people per car.

[Transit Authority president Forrest] Claypool said what's important now is that the new cars provide many benefits to riders, from a smoother, more reliable ride to more interior space allowing passengers to enter and exit more easily.

Yet a slew of emails received by the Tribune [recently] raised new concerns, ranging from fears that passengers sitting with backpacks and purses on laps facing the aisle will become easy prey for thieves, to a cattle-car atmosphere that is not conducive to reading or even gazing out windows.

"Women with low tops are going to feel uncomfortable with guys standing over them staring at their cleavage in warm weather. Pickpockets will reap a bigger harvest on crowded trains. It's going to be a nightmare with people sweating on you from both sides," rider Joseph Casillas said.

Toni Apicelli said one of the things she loved about moving back to Chicago from New York, where the MTA trains are equipped with inward-facing seats, was "not having to look at people's butts and crotches on the subway."

But now that she and her husband are getting older, "we will likely be less and less able to handle riding the CTA because there will be fewer seats and the swaying hoops make you less stable," she said.

"If the CTA refuses to change the seating, at least add more poles so short people like me, who can't reach the top pole, won't be at the mercy of the swaying hoops," Apicelli said.

Not everyone is experiencing a ride from hell on the new rail cars, however.

"My husband and I rode in a new car on the Green Line, and the openness and center-facing seats gave us a better sense of security by seeing everyone's face," Mena Boulanger said.
I wonder if "swaying hoop" refers to a redesign of the traditional standee strap.

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