Brown and Orange lines undergo renovations


Lou Foglia

As part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Transit Authority President Forest Claypool’s plan to modernize CTA infrastructure, the Brown and Orange line rail cars will undergo renovations this spring that to their ventilation systems, interior lighting and electronic designation signs.

By Ariel Parella-Aureli

The Chicago Transit Authority Brown and Orange line rail cars will be renovated this spring, giving them a more modernized look similar to the Red, Pink and Green line cars.

The 3200-series rail cars on the two lines were built in 1992 and 1993, making them the second-oldest rail cars being used on the CTA system, said CTA Spokesperson Ibis Antongiorgi in a Feb. 18 emailed statement. Renovations include improved HVAC systems—which control the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems—better interior lighting and new electronic designation signs, Antongiorgi said in the email. There are also plans to rebuild the rail cars and improve door motors, wheels and axle assemblies. The train car repairs will extend the life of the cars by another six years at least, Antongiorgi said in the email.

According to Antongiorgi, this renovation is part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool’s plan to modernize the CTA and its infrastructure. It will not only extend the life of the 257 rail cars that will get repairs, but improve their performance, efficiency and reliability as well. 

The CTA has been gathering materials and equipment to prepare for the remodeling since 2013. Antongiorgi said in the email that the equipment takes a long time to plan, produce and turn into a complete product.

“[They] require successful testing of pre-production samples to complete the overhaul,” Antongiorgi said in the email.

The email said personnel at the CTA’s Skokie Heavy Maintenance Facility will perform the overhaul work over the next two years and should be finished in 2017.

Antongiorgi said in the email that the improvements are going to be a positive change and will get the Brown and Orange lines up-to-date with the majority of the CTA rail system. In addition, the email said the mid-life overhaul will result in lower maintenance costs to the CTA. By replacing the major operations system in the trains, the trains’ lifespans will be rejuvenated, preventing small fixes and repairs. 

“Customers on the Brown and Orange lines will ride rail cars with improved performance, efficiency and reliability,” Antongiorgi said in the email. 

Vitaliy Vladimirov, an urban planning student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he rides the transit system every day and is all for the Brown and Orange line upgrades. 

“Any kind of service to improve ridership is always great,” Vladimirov said. “People tend to like riding trains more than they like to ride buses.”

He said the ridership is booming on the Brown Line and thinks the new signs will help tourists.

Kendal Dirkin, an associate project manager at Razorfish in Merchandise Mart, said she rides the Brown Line every day to and from work. She said improving the lines can help tourists navigate their way around the city because a lot of tourists ride the Brown Line. 

“It would be more pleasant in a newer and warmer car,” Dirkin said. 

She compared her experience on the Brown Line with the Pink, Green and Purple lines, saying trains would be newer and fresher if the old cars get pushed out for new cars. 

“The electric signs are helpful, like when tourists come, the red light beeps and it shows you where you are and where you are going,” Dirkin said.

She added it would be nice if the renovation helps the Brown Line’s speed. 

“I always find the Brown Line goes slow,” Dirkin said. “I don’t know if it’s the driver or the older cars, but if it could pick up the pace a little bit, that would be nice…. I think we have a good reputation of public transportation in Chicago and the Brown Line should not fall below people’s expectations.”