High-tech additions to CTA trains, buses

January 23, 2008 3:48:14 PM PST
CTA rail riders who worry about security, slow zones, and deteriorating trains: there's hope. The CTA board has approved spending an additional $26 million on new rail cars that will have state of the art security, including cameras and wireless technology.

In a CTA train accident or derailment passengers have to grope their way out of the train to find a path to the street. A major complaint of riders in this kind of scenario: lack of communication, not knowing what happened, not knowing how to escape. That's one of the issues being addressed in the new CTA rail car order.

"There will be six large screens inside the cars, text capability to get real time information from the control center, audio and video messages to rail cars," said Ron Huberman, CTA president.

Huberman made the presentation at Wednesday's CTA board meeting, changing an existing cta contract with Canada's Bombardier rail cars to update the security system.

Another major security feature: the new cars will be equipped with cameras. When someone pushes an emergency button, the camera goes on, so the train operator can see what's going on.

"The wireless network would also let the first responders see what is going on in the car in the event of an emergency," Huberman said.

At the CTA rail yard, testing is going on so CTA will know exactly what else to order before taking delivery of the cars, including wireless diagnostic capability to detect mechanical problems and the best surfaces that will allow seats and walls to be as clean and graffiti free as possible.

The first of the new rail cars will be tested out sometime next year. It will be two years before the initial order of 406 cars will be on the tracks in Chicago. The $600 million contract also has an option for another 300 of the cars.