CHICAGO (CBS) — For the first time, the CTA’s fleet of ‘L’ cars is 100 percent accessible, but total accessibility is still a way off for Chicago’s rapid transit system.
The last of the CTA’s 43-year-old 2200-series cars were removed from service last week. Although stylistically they bear strong exterior resemblance to the CTA’s newest cars, CTA historian Bruce Moffat says there was a key difference.
“They were the last of our cars that did not have wide doorways for wheelchairs and other accessibility devices,” Moffat said.
When the cars were delivered in 1969-70, they were thought to have an advantage because of the narrow doors, which created distinct pathways for people to get on and off the trains, speeding loading and unloading.
Moffat said that the design came from the respected architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and said that they were built to be harmonious with the new ‘L’ lines then being built in the median strips of the Dan Ryan and Kennedy Expressways.
The cars spent much of their careers running on those lines, but the “blinker” doors — as they were called — were too narrow to accommodate wheelchairs.
In recent years, since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a pair of the old 2200-series cars always ran with at least one pair of newer cars, so that some wheelchairs could be accommodated. So far, though, only 94 of CTA’s 145 ‘L’ stations are accessible. Three more will gain elevators later this year as part of the Red Line South project, said CTA spokesperson Lambrini Lukaidis.
Moffat said that at the age of 43, the 2200-series cars were the second oldest group of rapid transit cars in service in North America, behind only one group of 50-year-old cars in New York. He said the older the cars became, the more difficult they were to maintain because of the obsolete equipment on board. But he said, all in all, they were very reliable, especially when considering how much of their service lives were in close proximity to the salt, ice and snow of Chicago winters. All were built in the U.S. by the now-defunct Budd Company, of Philadelphia.
CTA will stage a formal retirement ceremony for the aging rail cars at 11 a.m. Thursday. Riders will be able to take a round-trip between Rosemont and Jefferson Park, followed by two round trips between Rosemont and the UIC/Halsted stop. CTA is promising some vintage “surprises” for those who ride.