Chicago's new L cars

I have been riding the elevated ("L") around Chicago over the past few weeks and recently had the chance to ride some of the new CTA rail cars. They look very similar to the old cars and have the same automated announcements and seat type, but they feature mostly longitudinal seating. This arrangement is preferably to the traditional layout (where most seats face the ends of the car) because it sacrifices a few seats to maximize standing capacity and circulation. That allows the car to carry more people and minimizes congestion as people get off and on. ChicagoPics13  CTA_new_car_exterior

Also notice the sign at the end of the cars which shows the next station as well as the date and time. This is the first in-vehicle sign that I've seen which has more than one line so hopefully that will become the norm. Displaying the time is incredibly useful for passengers looking to make connections, but what would be even more useful is real-time departure information for connecting routes. The technology is available to have the AVL system report information relevant to the next few stops based on your current location. On buses it could be located behind the driver's seat. I expect that we'll see this somewhere in the next few years.

There are currently 200 new cars operating, or about 15% of the fleet, with more on the way.  All "L" cars are 9 feet wide but only 48 feet long because of the many tight curves in the system. That means they can only fit two doors per car, which limits capacity and increases dwell time. However, unlike in some other large cities, CTA can use any car on any line.