3200-series Longitudinal Test Seating Car Gallery

3200 Gallery 01 | 3200 Gallery 02 | 3200 Gallery 03
3200 Gallery 04 | 3200 Gallery 05 | 3200 Gallery 06
3200 Gallery 07 | 3200 Gallery 08 | 3200 Gallery 09
3200 Gallery 10 | 3200 Gallery 11 | 3200 Gallery 12
3200 Gallery 13 | 3200 Gallery 14 | 3200 Gallery 15
3200 Gallery 16 | 3200 Gallery 17 | 3200 Gallery 18

3200-series Longitudinal Test Seating Car Gallery

About the Cars | Photos

To test new seating configurations and how additional maximum capacity could be attained with existing car dimensions, the Chicago Transit Authority modified a two-car unit with a longitudinal seating arrangement on a test basis in mid-2004.

Two 3200-series cars, unit 3407-3408, were given a new interior seating plan with a longitudinal arrangement, sometimes referred to as "bowling alley seating" because of the long unobstructed aisle it creates. In the cars, 31 of the 39 seats face inward toward the aisle and 8 are left in a transverse arrangement, as opposed to a standard 3200-series car, which has 15 seats facing inward and 24 facing forward or backward. The idea is to create a wider aisle for more standing passengers during rush hours. According to the CTA , the extra space created should allow for 10 more riders per car during busy times. Trains now can fit about 90 riders per car. It is also thought that the new seating arrangement makes more room for luggage, strollers, bikes, and other items. The new arrangement also creates a second wheelchair position in the chair, diagonally across from the existing position near the #1 end of the car.

To make up for the handgrips that were on the tops of the removed transverse seats, horizontal metal grip bars were installed overhead along each side of the aisle to give standees in the aisle something to hold on to. Two different heights of overhead bars are used in the two cars to test which is more ideal for comfortable holding and height clearance. In addition, vinyl straps (the same type used on the new NABI articulated buses) were also installed in some places along the overhead stanchion, bringing the literal use of the term "straphanger" back to the Chicago transit scene. There are also vertical metal poles between every two seats.

The new seating arrangement is just a test and will most likely not spread to other cars the Authority currently has. However, if they prove popular, the agency could use the configuration on the more than 300 new cars it plans to buy in the coming years, CTA President Frank Kruesi said.

"We're trying a configuration that's less crowded and less of an obstacle course throughout the car," Kruesi said in mid-May 2004. "We want to see how the people standing like it, and how the people sitting like it."

This two-car unit represents the first "L" cars to have longitudinal seating (discounting small number of such seats near doorways to allow for extra room for people waiting to alight to stand) since the Chicago Elevated Railways Collateral Trust (CER) ordered the first 4000-series "Baldie" cars -- trailers 4001-4066 and motors 4067-4128 -- in 1914. The next order of Baldies, cars 4129-4250, began the current arrangement of transverse seating throughout all cars.

The CTA released cars 3407-08 with the test seating configuration on Monday, May 17, 2004, first assigning them to the Brown Line. The CTA moved the two cars to other lines over the next couple months, leaving the cars on each line for about a week before rotating them, and surveyed riders to ascertain their feelings, experiences, and preferences. After the Brown Line, they went to the Orange Line from May 23 until May 29. The cars then went out of service for a week for an inspection, returning to service on the Green Line from June 6 through June 12. The cars began the second half of their service on the Purple Line from June 13 to 19. The units finished up on the CTA's two heaviest lines, operating on the Red and Blue lines on June 20-26 and June 27-July 3, respectively. They did not serve on the Yellow Line because the cars are not equipped with pantographs for overhead traction power. On July 7, 2004, cars 3407-3408 left 54th Yard and were returned to Kimball as part of a non-revenue equipment drag.

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Car 3408, seen here at the end of a rush hour Brown Line train in the layup pocket at Kimball on May 18, 2004, is one of two cars the CTA modified with longitudinal seating in mid-2004. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Toward the end of rush hour on Monday, May 18, 2004, Brown Line commuters are filling up nearly all the seats, with little apparent aversion to (or awareness of) the new test arrangement. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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By the time the test cars reach the end of the Brown Line, as they have here on the evening of May 18, 2004, the passenger loads tend to dissipate. Still, with plenty of open seats on the car, passengers seem just as willing to use the longitudinal seats as the remaining transverse ones. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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While laid up at Kimball station on May 19, 2004, the view down the aisle of car 3408 looking toward the #1 motorcab end shows how the "bowling alley" seating provides a more open, spacious feeling car and a wider aisle. Also note the vinyl straps hanging from the overhead stanchions. (Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz)

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At the #2 end of both cars some of the transverse seating was left in place because its realignment wouldn't have provided any net gain in seating or standing space, as seen in this view inside car 3408 on May 19, 2004. Leaving some transverse seats also provides some choice for riders who prefer to face forward or backward. (Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz)

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This view down one side of the aisle on car 3408 on May 19, 2004 shows the general arrangement of the longitudinal test seating. Rather than the long benches used on longitudinal seats in the such systems as the New York subway, the test cars used the same molded seats as a standard CTA car. Between every second seat is a vertical metal stanchion. Note the under-seat equipment boxes, the nearer of which was formerly underneath a transverse seat. (Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz)

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Near the motorcab at the #1 end of car 3408, the transverse seat that previously backed up against the can wall was replaced with a single longitudinal seat, as seen on May 19, 2004. This leaves an open corner for standing (or luggage, etc.). Note the mark on the rubber flooring where a seat was previously mounted. The two nearest seats were always in a longitudinal position. Besides being so arranged to accommodate the equipment box underneath, it has been typical of seating design since the beginning of the "L" to make seating near the doors longitudinal to provide more standing room near the doors where people tend to gather in anticipation of alighting at a station. (Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz)

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Because the test longitudinal seating uses stock standard CTA seats inside an existing CTA car, as well as because the existing longitudinal seats by the doors cannot be moved in part because they cover equipment boxes, some unusual seating gaps and other irregularities occur in the new arrangement, as seen in car 3408 on May 19, 2004. (Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz)

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To help explain to curious customers why the car they just stepped into has such an unusual seating arrangement, the CTA printed up special car cards for the test unit. Replacing all interior advertising, the three-card set is repeated through both cars. Two of the cards explain the purpose of the car -- one with bullet points and another with a photo -- while the third gives some reasons for why the CTA is engaging in the experiment. (Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz)