As Metra prepares to buy new railcars, it is seeking the input of riders in an online survey.
Metra issued a request for proposals earlier this year for at least 200 new cars with options for 300 more, according to a news release.
The agency is able to pursue this purchase thanks to a major infusion of funding from the capital program that was approved this year in Springfield. Metra has budgeted about $1.2 billion over the next five years for the purchase and rehabilitation of railcars and locomotives.
The manufacturers were allowed to propose alternative car designs that may address Metra’s needs better than the bi-level gallery cars that have been used for about 70 years.
In particular, Metra is looking for cars that increase capacity and optimize passenger amenities.
Metra wants customer feedback on which types of amenities are most important to them. It will use those survey results as it negotiates with the manufacturers to design the best possible railcar.
Metra wants to know if its customers want amenities such as cup holders, tray tables, tables between seats, dimmable lights, tinted or untinted windows, headrests, armrests, USB chargers, interior information screens, exterior information screens and wireless internet.
The agency added that it cannot guarantee that it will be able to incorporate everything into the new cars, but promised to do all it can to get the most amenities possible.
The survey is available on metrarail.com and is available until mid-January.
Metra announced earlier this year that it wouldn’t raise fares for customers for the second year in a row.
Thanks to the new state capital program, it will spend $2.6 billion for capital improvements over the next five years, with a priority on railcars, locomotives, stations, bridges and service improvements.
Metra expects to receive about $215.5 million in each of the next five years from the sale of state bonds, and an additional $74.8 million a year from “pay-go” funding tied to a higher state fuel tax, for a total of $1.45 billion in new state money, according to a Metra news release.
In recent years, the agency’s leadership was worried about the need for capital improvements, with some cars still in operation after 30 years and some of the oldest topping out at 65 years old.