Computer-generated rendering of the proposed 7000-series railcars shows what the exterior of the cars is proposed to look like. The sides generally resemble the previous 5000-series cars (as well as their 3200-series predecessors), but the end cap is a new design intended to give the cars a more modern and streamlined appearance. For a larger view, click here. (Image courtesy of CTA)
Built by: CRRC Sifang America
Year: 2019-? (planned)
Width at Floor: 8'-8"
Width at Windows: 9'-4"
Height over Roof: 12'-0"
Trucks: to be determined
Truck centers: 33' 8"
Truck wheelbase: 6' 6"
Coupler: #1 end / #2 end: Form 5 / tubular
Wheel diameter: 28"
Seats: 38 minimum, exact number to be determined
Weight (w/o passengers): to be determined
Motors per car: to be determined
Balancing speed: to be determined
Governed speed: to be determined
On February 6, 2013, CTA President Forrest Claypool announced that the CTA was seeking manufacturers for a brand-new generation of railcars. The CTA issued an Invitation for Bids (IFB) for up to 846 new rail cars, which were dubbed the 7000-series in the bid documents.1
The procurement of the 7000-series railcars was intended to continue the agency's efforts to modernize the transit system to improve service and benefit customers. The cars are intended to replace rail stock that was nearing or beyond 30 years of age, with replacement of the aging cars reducing service delays from mechanical breakdowns and saving millions of dollars in operating costs.2
Design and Original Bid
The IFB broke the procurement into a base order and eight options, totalling 846 cars. The base order is or 100 cars, while options 1 through 8 are for 50 cars, 50 cars, 100 cars, 100 cars, 156 cars, 100 cars, 100 cars, and 90 cars, respectivelty.3
At the time the IFB was issued, CTA expected to begin taking delivery of the new cars around 2016. The 7000-series would replace the oldest rail cars in the CTA's fleet -- the remaining 400 cars of the 2600-series from the mid-1980s and the 256 1991-94-built 3200-series cars -- potentially reducing the average age of the CTA's fleet to less than 10 years by 2022. In addition, the size and number of options in the potential 7000-series car contract would allow the CTA to expand its rail fleet if ridership trends or system expansion warrants. The purchase of the 7000-series cars during the delivery of the 5000-series cars, and beginning their delivery shortly after the last 5000 is delivered, would allow for the continuous replacement of CTA's entire aging rail fleet, departing from 20 years between railcar orders that took place between the purchase of the 3200s and 5000s.4
If the options for all 846 railcars were exercised, the contract would have had an estimated value of more than $2 billion.5 The base order of 100 7000-series cars would be paid for with federal money and CTA bond proceeds already in place when the IFB was issued. The balance of orders would be funded by future federal and state funding as money is secured, as well as with future bond proceeds. However, at the time the IFB was issued, CTA officials said they could not predict when enough money would be in hand to finance rail car orders totaling $2 billion.6
The original IFB also required the 7000-series cars to be able to trainline and operate in a train mixed consist with the 5000-series cars. As such, the 7000's represent a continuation of the new family of cars that started with the 5000s. The IFB also required that the 7000's be able to couple mechanically with the 2600-, 3200- and 5000-series cars.7
The exterior and inside design of the 7000-series was not set by the IFB documents and specifications. Bidders were asked to submit exterior and interior design proposals, consisting of design options such as seating configuration and aesthetic design to ensure the new cars best meet CTA's requirements.8 The requirement that bidders submit design proposals that may differ from CTA's current railcar aesthetics and configuration comes after a mixed reaction from the public to the 5000-series cars' mostly aisle-facing seating, a seating configuration absent from Chicago rapid transit cars for several decades until the 5000s delivery. CTA said they would survey passengers about their preferences, and conduct research examining how different designs affect the time it takes passengers to board and exit trains.9
The week of April 15, 2013, CTA emailed a survey to some CTA riders, asking them to weigh in on whether they prefer the aisle-facing seats on the new 5000-series railcars, the 2-1 transverse seating of the 3200-series, or the 2-2 transverse seating of the 2600-series cars. The CTA also asked riders, if longitudinal seats are used, whether they would rather see the cloth seats on the existing "L" cars or plastic bench seats featured in New York City subway cars, as well as how they prefer to steady themselves when standing: by leaning against the train, or holding onto a pole, hanging straps or the back of a rider's seat. "The survey is one part of the research we're doing," CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said. "We're also studying how passengers board and alight and how they move within the cars once they're on board."10
Following the survey, and after careful study of existing design, passenger flow, capacity and comfort, the CTA announced in early August 2013 that it had developed a new, customer-friendly rail car seating configuration for the 7000-series railcars. The seating plan was a hybrid of features from previous "L" car styles, incorporating both forward- and aisle-facing seats.11 The CTA provided the seating configuration design to potential bidders, advising them to focus their proposals on a "hybrid seating design'' consisting of both transverse seating and some aisle-facing seats. It will be left to the competing manufacturers to execute final designs that are functional and aesthetically pleasing, but CTA officials said the winning proposal will offer aisle-facing seats in the front of the car to maximize standing space.12
In the design, the front of the car would offer aisle-facing seats to maximize standing space. The middle of the car would feature an asymmetrical mix of forward-facing and aisle-facing single seats and seat pairs, similar to the configuration found on rail cars used on the 3200-series cars, which allow for more passengers to stand with ease. The rear of the car would include rows of forward-facing seat pairs, providing the maximum number of forward-facing seats in area that will not impede passenger flow. Additional features included two locations per car for passengers with wheelchairs. Also, the railcar configuration could include offset poles and straps for standing passengers on each side of the aisle, instead of poles located directly across the aisle from each other, which increases the chances of passengers standing back-to-back and inadvertently blocking the aisle. The new design would have as many as 38 seats, compared with 38-46 on other rail cars. The proposed configuration would have a more even mix of forward-facing (53%) and aisle-facing (47%) seats in a design that promotes more efficiency in boarding and exiting the train while providing passengers several standing and seating choices.13
As of early August 2013, the manufacturers' bids on the 7000-series cars were due in October 2013, and CTA expected to select a manufacturer by January 2014.14
The CTA asked companies bidding on the 7000-series railcar contract to disclose how many new jobs they might create in the U.S. as part of the manufacturing project. The request for a disclosure on an American jobs plan was not a requirement by the CTA, but it is the first time the transit agency asked bidders to voluntarily submit such information. CTA said the questionnaire relating to American job creation in the bid materials was voluntarily for the manufacturers to fill out, and that the contract would still be awarded to the lowest qualified bidder. The questionnaire was added shortly before bids were due in late October 2013, but an extension until December 18 was offered for companies to fill out the optional questionnaire about their plans to hire and train American workers.15
When CTA opened the responses to the IFB on January 27, 2014, there were two bidders: Bombardier Transit Corp. and Sumitomo Corp. of America and its manufacturing partner, Nippon Sharyo U.S.A.16
Bombardier was the low bidder, bidding $1.39 billion to make the 846 7000-series cars. At the time, Bombardier was completing delivery of the 714 5000-series cars under a $1.14 billion contract. Bombardier was seen by some as having the inside track, since they were in the midst of manufacturing cars for the CTA.17
Sumitomo and Nippon Sharyo, which have not sold rail cars to the CTA before, submitted a $1.55 billion bid. Nippon Sharyo was manufacturing 160 commuter Highliner coaches for Metra's Electric District at the company's plant in Rochelle, IL. Sumitomo's bid was highly anticipated by some state and local officials because Nippon Sharyo's manufacturing plant in Rochelle could create more jobs.18
A third rail car manufacturer that expressed interest in the contract, Kawasaki Rail Car Inc., did not submit a bid.19
At the time, the CTA anticipated awarding a contract by the summer, with delivery of the first 7000-series cars occurring in late 2017 or early 2018.20
On May 20, 2014, CTA announced that they were rejecting the only two bids submitted to manufacture the 846 700-series railcars and instead would restart the procurement process by summer 2014 to drum up more competition and lower pricing. CTA officials said inter-connectivity between different models of railcars is desirable but not vital to operations, noting that 5000-series cars cannot be mixed in the same train with the 3200- and 2600-series cars, all of which would coexist in CTA's fleet even after delivery of the 5000's is complete.21
Another change the CTA plans to make is in the number of cars in the base order. The original IFB stipulated that the base order would start out with 100 rail cars. A larger base order is expected to spur more competition and better pricing. The new round of bidding also gives the CTA the opportunity to consider new designs and engineering changes, which could result in the 7000's looking different than the standard CTA car of the previous 40 years.22
One factor that CTA states will not change is the seating arrangement worked out for the original IFB order, which was to be a "hybrid" design consisting of a mix of longitudinal and transverse seating.23
At the monthly board meeting on June 11, 2014, CTA officials announced that the purchase of the new railcars will begin with an initial order of 200 cars, instead of 100 cars as previously planned. The CTA believed that doubling the size of the base order would result in more competition and a better price for the transit agency. The remaining options, if exercised, would still total 846 cars. CTA expected to advertise for bids by early September, with prototypes delivered for testing in Chicago in August 2018. Following successful testing of the prototypes, delivery of production cars would then follow in August 2019, at a rate of 10 to 14 cars a month.24 The later delivery of the new cars dovetails with CTA's $166 million mid-life rehab of the 1992-built 3200-series cars, which is not expected to be complete until 2019.25
CTA re-advertised for bids for the 7000-series cars on Thursday, October 16, 2014. Rather than the 200 car base discussed four months earlier, the base order was increased to 400 cars, from 100 cars in the original advertisement. The contract would still have options that allowed the purchase of as many as 846 new cars. In addition to removing the previous requirement that the 7000-series be compatible with current CTA car, other changes from the first bid solicitation includes adding two exterior cameras on each rail car and nine interior cameras, including two interior cameras in the operating cab, and consideration of alternative technologies or configurations for car systems like doors, brakes and HVAC.26
The new bid solicitation also is the first in CTA history to include a ground-breaking provision that asks bidders to provide the number and type of new jobs they will create related to the production of the new rail cars, an agreement reach by the Mayor, CTA and the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL) in July 2014. The provision will also ask bidders to outline their job recruitment and workforce training plans.27
The CTA extended the bid-submission deadline from May 29 to July 28, 2015, at the request of some rail car manufacturers and equipment suppliers that may compete for the contract. The CTA's goal is still to award a contract in 2015, but this change also resulted in pushing the dates for delivery out farther than originally projected. The proposed 7000-series cars, originally projected to arrive around 2016, are now being pushed back to 2019 for the prototype cars that the CTA will test for up to one year. Then, after possible technical and design changes, assembly-line production of 400 rail cars would begin in 2020.28
The CTA issued two addenda to its request for bids in spring 2015. One offers manufacturers an alternative for glass insulation to provide better noise and thermal insulation. The other allows air-conditioning equipment to be split up, installed under the floor as well as in the rooftop, to provide more headroom inside the cars.29
The estimated total cost for the rail cars is $2 billion, funded through a combination of federal and local funds.30
Contract Award and Protest
On March 9, 2016, the Chicago Transit Board awarded a contract for the 7000-series to CSR Sifang America JV, which as part of its winning bid has pledged to build a brand-new rail car assembly facility in Chicago -- the first of its kind in 35 years. The facility is expected to generate 170 jobs, and represents an investment of $40 million.
CSR submitted the lowest bid of $1.309 billion for 846 railcars. CTA will purchase a base order of 400 cars first, with options to purchase the remainder in coming years.
Prototype models are expected to be complete in 2019; following testing, the cars will go into service in 2020. The cars will be assembled in a new facility CSR plans to build in Chicago.
CSR is one of the world's largest rail-car manufacturers, and since 1962 has built more than 30,000 rail cars for more than 20 countries in Asia, South America and the Middle East. In the United States, CSR is building rail cars for Boston's transit system. CSR Sifang America JV is a joint venture of CRRC Qingdao Sifang Co., which is owned by the Chinese state, and CSR America, which has offices in Chicago.
On April 12, 2016, Bombardier Transit Corp. files a formal protest of the decision to award the contract to CSR, charging that the contract was "rigged" and asserting that CSR benefited from breaches in federal law and "fraudulently" misrepresented its qualifications.31
Bombardier's protest also claimed that the Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office knew of the decision to award the contract to CSR before the CTA Board awarded the contract, even though contract evaluations are to be secret until the award is made, and that the mayor's office may have interfered in the decision-making process. The protest alleged that since 2014, the mayor had lobbied for the Chinese firm to win because of Emanuel's desire to lure Chinese investors for a variety of Chicago projects.32
Bombardier's bid was $226 million higher than CSR's, but the protest alleges CSR got the contract by improperly underbidding, misstating its record and through political clout. The protest alleges that CSR failed to disclose that it was disqualified from a bid to build rail cars in Boston and that the CTA "failed to determine whether CSR's price was reasonable" -- in fact, it says, the bid was "uneconomical and necessarily subsidized by the People's Republic of China," which owns the company.33
CTA spokesman Brian Steele said, "CTA has an established process in place for reviewing bid protests, which will include a thorough review of all the documents Bombardier submitted. That said, this contract was handled the same way every competitive procurement is handled. CTA is confident that all of the procurement processes and applicable laws were followed properly, ensuring a fair and equitable contract award."34
In September 2016, CTA released documents showing that the contract was awarded to CSR even though the agency's five-member internal review committee unanimously scored Bombardier's bid substantially higher -- the five-member bid evaluation panel gave Bombardier 3,667.9 of a possible 5,000 points, compared to 2,869.4 for CSR.35
However, also released was a memo by Ellen McCormick, the CTA's vice president of Purchasing who recommended the CSR offer to the CTA board, in which she confirms that "the evaluation committee gave Bombardier higher scores than it gave CSR on the evaluation criteria set forth (in the bid solicitation) before consideration of price," but states that the $226.6 million difference in the two offers outweighed the rating differences. For instance, "the most important factor to the CTA is the technical proposal submitted by the proposers," and Bombardier was rated just 2.9 percentage points higher than CSR. "If the technical proposal were the sole evaluation criterion," McCormick wrote, "I would conclude that the proposed Bombardier cars are not worth an additional price of $239.1 million." McCormick went on to dismiss other ratings differences on things such as experience, local hiring and the like as inconsequential.36
On September 28, 2016, CTA finalized its decision to award the 7000-series contract to CSR. In a decision written by Carole Morey, the CTA's Chief Planning Officer and the hearing officer in the case, Moray ruled that the $226 million difference in bids by Bombardier Transit and CSR Sifang America was sufficient to outweigh the better technical marks Bombardier got from a CTA review panel.37
The CTA "finds that the [Bombardier] protest relies on misstatements of fact, speculation, wholly unfounded accusations of misconduct and legally baseless arguments made by a proposer that simply failed to put forward the best-value proposal," Morey wrote. The differing grades the two companies received from reviewers were close enough that price became determinative, Moray also found.38
Further, according to Moray, "the record contains no evidence" that Emanuel or his office contacted anyone at CTA to influence the award. The differing grades the two companies received from reviewers were close enough that price became determinative, Moray also found.39
A spokeswoman for Bombardier said the firm is disappointed by the decision and now will review its legal options. A CTA spokesman said that Bombardier itself profited from a similar incident 10 years ago when it offered the lowest price but was out-rated by a competitor, a division of Kawasaki. Bombardier got the $1 billion deal.40
CSR/CRRC Corporate Identity
In late 2014, two Chinese locomotive and rolling stock manufacturers, CNR Group and CSR Group, agreed to merge, subject to approval by the Chinese state. The combined business was renamed CRRC Corporation Limited. The merger came into effect 1 June 2015.41
After the merger process began, CRRC began efforts to expand overseas. Their first major American contract was for new subway cars for Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Red and Orange lines, with a $556.6 million bid in October 2014.42
For these American contracts, CRRC created various subsidiaries through which to do business. The Boston subway car order was awarded to CRRC MA ("MA" for Massachusetts). For the CTA contract, a subsidiary CSR Sifang America, was created to bid on the job.43 Although CSR had been merged into the new CRRC a year before the 7000-series order was re-advertised in 2016, the subsidiary nonetheless used the name of one of the predecessor companies.
However, by 2017, the subsidiary had changed its name to CRRC Sifang America, matching the branding of its parent company.44 CRRC Sifang America's LinkedIn page describes themselves as "part of the family of companies of CRRC Corporation Limited".45
Factory Construction and Hiring
As part of CRRC Sifang America's bid to construct the 7000-series railcars, the company proposed to building a new factory in Chicago where the cars would be assembled. The plan was not only part of the company's compliance with Buy America requirements, but a commitment to provide local employment as part of the car-building project. The project was estimated to create more than 300 skilled factory and new construction jobs.46
The new CRRC facility marked the first time in more than 50 years that CTA rail cars have been produced in Chicago -- the last 'L' cars built in Chicago were the 2000-series cars in 1964,47 built at the Pullman plant at 111th Street and Cottage Grove.
CRRC Sifang America committed to hiring from communities that make up the City of Chicago and surrounding areas and is working with unions such as the Chicago Federation of Labor, IBEW and SMART, to secure a union workforce from within these communities. Working with CRRC and the Unions in this endeavor are Jobs to Move America (JMA), Calumet Area Industrial Commission (CAIC) and City Colleges of Chicago.48
The facility, paid for entirely by CRRC, will employ at least 169 factory and warehouse workers, as well as support approximately 200 construction jobs to build the facility. Approximately $7 million will be spent on training for their Chicago final assembly facility workforce.49
The new $100 million, 380,994-square-foot50 (20,000-square-meter51) facility is located at 13535 South Torrence Avenue in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the Southeast Side of Chicago.52 The facility was built by developer CenterPoint Properties.53
The factory's giant assembly hall is divided into separate functional areas. There are bogies in the manufacturing area, car-lifting machines, and two separate rooms have train tracks and maintenance ditches to conduct rain and explosion-proof tests.54
Outside the red and deep grey building are two cranes. Along the perimeter of the factory area, there are three 800-meter tracks, where all the assembled cars will be speed-tested before they are placed in service.55
On March 16, 2017, Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Chicago Transit Authority President Dorval R. Carter, Jr., CRRC Sifang America, CenterPoint Properties, Jobs to Move America, and the Chicago Federation of Labor to break ground on the CRRC factory.56
CenterPoint started work on the roughly $40 million project in spring 201757; construction permits were issued in May 2017.
Developer CenterPoint Properties officially transferred the property to the state-owned Chinese firm in June 2018 after completing the 45-acre complex.58 Pan Ruoheng, an engineer with CRRC Sifang America Inc., said the facility is scheduled to go into production at the end of 2018 or in early 2019.59
On March 1, 2019, Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr., CRRC Sifang America and the Chicago Federation of Labor to recognize the hiring of the initial group of employees at the factory. The hiring marks the start of employee training, with more than 70 workers hired up to that point. The first group of production workers were to travel to China in early March 2019 for highly specialized training in assembling the new railcars.60
Prototype Units and Production
In the first stage, the factory will produce 14 railcars every month until 2020.61
The first 10 prototypes of the 7000-series railcars are anticipated to be placed into service starting in late 2019.62 63
The CTA's base order of 400 railcars is being manufactured for a total of $632 million or $1.58 million per car, with future options for an additional 446 railcars.64
Once delivery of the new rail cars is complete, the CTA will have its youngest rail fleet in decades, reducing the average age of CTA rail cars from 26 years in 2011 to 13 years when the 7000-series are delivered. The new rail cars are projected to save the CTA about $7 million annually in reduced maintenance costs and reduced use of power.
1. "CTA Announces Plan for Newest Generation of Rail Cars" CTA Press Release. February 6, 2013.
3. Chicago Transit Authority. "Bid Proposal for Rapid Transit Cars." Requisition C13FI101372531, Specification CTA 7200-12. Issued February 6, 2013, page P-11.
4. CTA Press Release (Feb 6, 2013), ibid.
6. Hilkevitch, Jon. "CTA plans to buy more rail cars," Chicago Tribune, February 7, 2013.
7. CTA Requisition C13FI101372531, page DS 1-1.
8. CTA Press Release (Feb 6, 2013), ibid.
9. Hilkevitch (Feb 7, 2013), ibid.
10. Swartz, Tracy. "CTA seeks opinion on rail seats." Red Eye. April 16, 2013.
11. "CTA reveals new look for next generation of rail cars." CTA Press Release. August 2, 2013.
12. Hilkevitch, Jon. "CTA trying for more 'customer-friendly' seating in future car." Chicago Tribune, August 2, 2013.
13. CTA Press Release (Aug 2, 2013), ibid.
14. Hilkevitch (Aug 2, 2013), ibid.
15. Hilkevitch, Jon. "CTA will quietly nudge rail car bidders to hire Americans." Chicago Tribune, October 20, 2013.
16. Hilkevitch, Jon. "CTA rail car maker submits low bid for 846 cars." Chicago Tribune, January 28, 2014.
21. Hilkevitch, Jon. "CTA tosses out rail car bids, will start over on new fleet contract." Chicago Tribune, May 20, 2014.
24. Hilkevitch, Jon. "CTA: New rail cars expected in 2019." Chicago Tribune, June 11, 2014.
25. Roberts, Bob. "New CTA Rail Cars Not Expected Until 2019 At The Earliest." CBS Chicago, June 11, 2014.
26. "Mayor Emanuel, Chicago Transit Authority Begin Search for Manufacturer to Build New, Modern Rail Cars and Create New Jobs." CTA Press Release. October 16, 2014.
28. Hilkevitch, Jon. "CTA rounding the curve slowly on next rail car purchase." Chicago Tribune, April 26, 2015.
30. CTA Press Release (Oct 16, 2014), ibid.
31. Hinz, Greg. "CTA el car deal 'rigged,' losing bidder contends". Crain's Chicago Business, April 12, 2016.
35. Hinz, Greg. "New flap arises in CTA's $1.3 billion el car deal". Crain's Chicago Business, September 26, 2016.
37. Hinz, Greg. "CTA finalizes $1.3 billion rail car deal". Crain's Chicago Business, September 28, 2016.
41. "CRRC." Wikipedia. Accessed January 29, 2019.
43. "China's CRRC wins $1.3 bln deal to supply Chicago rail cars." Reuters, March 10, 2016.
44. "Mayor Emanuel, CTA, CRRC Sifang America Break Ground on New CTA Railcar Manufacturing Facility in Chicago." CTA press release, March 16, 2017.
45. CRRC Sifang America LinkedIn page, Accessed January 29, 2019.
46 1. CTA Press Release (March 16, 2017), ibid.
51. "Chicago, Chinese railcar maker show where there's a wheel, there's a way." Xinhua, July 19, 2018.
52. O'Brien, John. "Chinese manufacturer spends $87M on CTA rail car plant." The Real Deal. July 03, 2018.
54. Xinhua, ibid.
56. CTA Press Release (March 16, 2017), ibid.
57. The Real Deal, ibid.
59. Xinhua, ibid.
60. "Mayor Emanuel, CTA, CRRC Sifang America Announce Hiring of Workers at New Railcar Manufacturing Facility in Chicago." CTA press release, March 1, 2019.
61. Xinhua, ibid.
62. Chicago Transit Authority, Transforming Transit for the 21st Century: President's 2019 Budget Recommendations, October 2018, p.70.
63. CTA Press Release (March 1, 2019), ibid.