New Purple Line trains pull into Evanston

Patrick Svitek

Regional commuters are mostly unfazed by the CTA’s gradual rollout of its 5000-series trains, which were added to Purple Line tracks Monday as part of the second experimental stage to roll into Evanston in three months.

A CTA worker informed The Daily earlier this week that the prototype trains are being primarily tested during high-volume traffic, such as evening rush hour.

Each of the 10 rail cars connected to the Purple Line’s non-express route, which runs from Howard Street in Chicago to Linden Street in Wilmette, is equipped with a host of new features, including electronic destination signs and eco-friendly braking systems. The most noticeable alteration, though, is the aisle-facing seat setup intended to create more floor space for standing and handicapped passengers.

The 5000-series models also boast increased safety functions, such as more responsive door-interference sensors and event recording, a common practice exemplified by the “black box” of a commercial airliner.

The additional bells and whistles failed to impress Richard Fitzgerald, a Wilmette resident who estimates he travels by El three times a month.

“It’s not as comfortable as the other trains,” he said. “But if it makes more room, it makes more sense, I guess.”

Fitzgerald added that the preliminary fleet is certainly not as painless as past models, partly because passengers are prone to bumping into the new overhead bike hooks when rising from their seat.

Deerfield, Ill., traveler Gary McGregor agreed that the 5000-series trains were distinctly less cozy than their predecessors in the “handful of times” he has ridden them. He said the new regenerative braking technology, which reroutes converted heat to onboard systems and other rails instead of outside air, creates an undesirable passenger experience.

“They’re saying, ‘Oh, it’s a smoother ride,'” McGregor said. “Every time I’ve been on one, it’s been more of a roller coaster each time. It’s definitely not a smoother ride.”

The trial designs are definitely different from the current trains, Evanston resident Joy Horton said. But she said the upped security features and cleaner look are valuable updates.

Still, the parallel-facing seats create awkward maneuvering about individual cars, Horton added.

“It wasn’t very convenient,” she said from the Noyes El stop platform Thursday night. “It was just all right. I still like the old cars better.”

Horton said the updates were secondary to a more pressing concern: seating.

“As long as I get a seat, that’s all that matters,” she said.

The CTA’s media relations office directed inquiries to their online press center Thursday.

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