Something new for Chicago

Hello, Chicago. This marks the debut of a new source of information for the millions of Chicago area residents and businesses who must get around the metropolitan area each day, whether by car, bus or train (and bike, too). Just a few years ago, there were at least five reporters working for Chicago newspapers and radio stations whose “beat” was transportation and who provided this information. Not any more.

While those beats have disappeared, the news has not. Chicagoans still need to know the best ways to get around. They need to know how their expressways and tollways are being managed and maintained. They need to know if their buses and trains are operating properly and on time. They need to know who runs the transit agencies, and why those officials make the decisions they do. They need to how their tax money and fares are being spent. They need a watchdog.

The Chicago Transportation Journal’s goal is to address those needs. We’ll do so by providing in-depth coverage of issues unavailable elsewhere. For example, if your bus or train is consistently late, we’ll tell you why and what’s being done to fix the problem. We’ll delve into the decision-making behind the policies and actions taken by transportation agencies. We’ll also provide a forum for transportation users, providers and experts. We welcome other voices.

Transportation is a multibillion-dollar industry, and Chicago is the transportation hub of the nation. All the major freight railroads, Amtrak, and many of the key interstate highways pass through the region. We have two of the nation’s busiest airports, O’Hare and Midway. This site also hopes to keep an eye on the freight rail, trucking and aviation industries, areas not covered by other media.

The Chicago Transportation Journal is making a…

New way to ride Metra debuts

As part of a pilot program, some Metra riders will start seeing the biggest change to their daily commutes in decades on Wednesday with the debut of coaches equipped with a new style of seats.

Instead of the dark green bench-style seats that have traditionally been used on Metra coaches, the new gray and blue vinyl seats are considered “airline-style” with armrests, built-in cup holders and better head, neck and back support, officials say.

And, importantly, the new seats are stationary: That is, they don’t flip.

Except for 12 seats in each car, the new ones will face the vestibule at the middle of each coach. So only about half the riders will face the direction of travel. That means some customers may have to get used to riding backwards.

Metra is rolling out the first of 30 railcars with the new seats. That car, No. 7437 (for anyone who wants to spot it), is being put into service on the Milwaukee District lines, which run north to Fox Lake and west to Elgin.

Metra plans to add the new seating to two cars per month between now and the end of the year on all lines except the Metra Electric as part of a pilot program. Older model Electric District cars have fixed seats.

Customers who use the new seats will be asked to provide feedback starting in February.

Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno said Metra hopes riders find the new seats more comfortable than the current ones, and that more ridership will result.

“We want to provide the very best…