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The Metra Board of Directors has approved the purchase of up to 500 multi-level commuter railcars from Alstom to replace aging bi-level gallery cars.

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The Metra Board of Directors has approved the purchase of up to 500 multi-level commuter railcars from Alstom to replace aging bi-level gallery cars.

Metra’s initial order will be for 200 cars, with an option for up to 300 more, totaling $1.8 billion. The cars, a customized version of the Coradia Duplex (see video below), are to be built at Alstom’s Hornell, N.Y., manufacturing facility. The first car is slated for delivery in mid-2024 (42 months after the contract is finalized), with the full base order complete 30 months later (late 2027 or early 2028).

The agency’s $386.8 million capital program for 2021, approved in November, set aside $61.5 million for the cars, which had been part of the Board’s plan since 2014. A request for proposals was issued in March 2019.

About 40% of Metra’s 840-car fleet is “rated in marginal or poor condition, although they are still safe to operate,” the agency said. “The new cars will offer increased reliability, while reducing operating costs—a substantial improvement over the increasing expense of maintaining the older cars.”

The new Alstom cars will have an advanced HVAC system, “which will scrub the circulated air—reducing staleness, allergens and airborne viruses,” Metra said, as well as a microprocessor-controlled braking system and rider area cameras. Additionally, to reduce dwell times and increase rider accessibility, the cars will have two entranceways on each side with doors nearly level with the platform, requiring only one step to enter instead of multiple steps on the old gallery cars. The cars will also be wheelchair accessible, deploying lifts to bridge the slight difference between the platform and entrance. Among their amenities: video screens, bike racks, storage for bags, charging outlets, cupholders and arm rests.

“This move is truly transformational,” Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski said. “We are finally modernizing one of the oldest fleets in the country and, in doing so, we will improve operations while elevating our passenger experience to an entirely new level. It’s really part of our long-term plan to evolve and serve the changing needs of today’s commuters.”

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