We're still getting used to the center-facing seats on the 5000 series of CTA train cars (which were introduced in 2011) but the city's transit authority is already planning the launch of the 7000 series, the next generation of passenger rail cars. According to the Tribune, a Chinese-owned manufacturing company called CSR Sifang America has won the $1.309 billion deal to construct up to 846 cars. CSR Sifang America's bid beat out that of New York-based Bombardier Transportation, the manufacturer of the current generation of 5000 series rail cars.
We don't know exactly what the new CTA train cars will look like, but a report published last year by the Tribune revealed that the CTA is once again considering revising the seating arrangement to maximize the capacity of rail cars, creating additional space for passengers to stand. Don't expect to see new cars in the Loop anytime soon—prototypes of the 7000 series rail cars are scheduled to be delivered to the CTA in 2019, with an initial order of 400 arriving in 2024.
Interestingly, a key component of the deal is CSR Sifang America's commitment to building a factory on the Far South Side at 135th Street and Torrance Avenue, where all of the new train cars will be assembled. The factory will be the first of its kind in Chicago since the remaining Pullman-Standard assembly facility closed in 1981, bringing an end to the Pullman community area's reign as a rail car manufacturing hub. All told, 169 new jobs will be created at the assembly plant as a result of the contract with CSR Sifang America.
With any luck, the introduction of the 7000 series train cars will bring about the retirement of the 3200 and 2600 series cars (introduced in 1992 and 1981, respectively) that are still in operation on the Blue, Brown and Orange lines.