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CTA rolls out new cars, extra trains to boost capacity on crowded Blue Line

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The upgraded service aims to keep pace with steadily increasing demand

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Riders on the crowded O’Hare branch of the Blue Line may notice an easier commute this week thanks to new train cars and additional rush hour service. The changes are part of ongoing efforts by the CTA to boost capacity and reduce delays.

Overcrowding has become a major issue on the popular North Side transit route as demand steadily rises, driven in part by thousands of new transit-oriented apartments sprouting up along Milwaukee Avenue between River West to Logan Square. During the busy morning and afternoon commutes, trains routinely arrive at stations already filled.

To ease Blue Line congestion during peak hours, the O’Hare branch recently added two more trains during the morning rush and one extra train during the evening rush, CTA spokesman Brian Steele told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday.

Additionally, the CTA is moving 100 of the newer, more reliable 3200-series train cars to the Blue Line—replacing the old 1980s-era 2600-series—plus 24 examples of the even more recent 5000-series car. Although the newer trains offer fewer seats, they do allow more overall capacity with extra room for standing passengers and the luggage of riders heading to and from O’Hare International Airport.

To switch the Blue Line’s northern branch to a full fleet of new generation trains, the CTA will need to boost electrical power. Last year the agency began upgrading two electrical substations along the O’Hare branch tracks. That project is expected to be complete in 2020.

The power improvements will be joined by an effort to speed-up service on the Blue Line by up to six minutes. Known as the FastTracks program, that initiative will be funded by a city-imposed surcharge on trips with rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft.