CTA tests rail cars with improved accessibility

May 1, 2011 6:51:59 AM PDT
The future CTA rail cars are providing better security, smoother rides and improved accessibility which is essential for commuters with disabilities.

CTA officials say they are making progress towards implementing accessibility throughout their rail system. The new prototype rail cars are being tested on different lines with a goal of having over 400 new cars on the track within the next year.

Besides being spotless and shinny car, new rail car has accommodations available for different disabilities.

"One of the key features for this train, unlike the other cars, is that there are two with wheelchair places on the train," said Cara Levinson, the CTA's ADA compliance officer. "We also have a map, which is right up there, and that map indicates there's a little light which moves along as the train moves so that for someone who is deaf or hearing impaired they can see where we are by looking at the light on the map."

"We have big bold LED signs at the front at the side of train which make it very easy for people to see where we're going," Levinson said. "We have upgraded emergency information there's a button for which you can press which we currently have but its button which you can press and very good information in braille and tactile lettering explain if you have an emergency who to contact."

Perhaps the most amazing new feature is the rise and fall level to the platform. CTA President Richard Rodriguez explains: "This is not going to be at all the stations. The ramp may still be necessary in some stations but the actual train also leans towards the ramps on platforms that are lower, just similar to our buses."

Upgrading rail cars are not the only improvements.

"Both new employees and existing employees get recertified every year or two," Rodriguez said. "Being able to work with people who have mobility issues, you know our accessibility community, just in general you get retrained on everything so we're very strong in customer service training and just making sure our employees are up to date."

Once the fleets of new rail car are on the track, the next goal is to get commuters with disabilities to ride the el says Kevin Irvine, chair of the CTA ADA advisory committee.

'I think that a lot of people have had historically bad experiences that have kept them from using it or they've heard about bad experiences or they have concerns," Irvine said. "It's going to take a lot of people with disabilities taking a chance and getting and riding the train to discover that it's the best way to get around town."

Each rail car cost $1.3 million. Sixty-three percent of CTA stations are accessible and 100 percent of the CTA buses are totally accessible.