LOGAN SQUARE — No, you’re not imagining it — Blue Line trains have been nicer and a tad bit more frequent lately.
This past week the CTA began running newer rail cars on the O’hare branch of the Blue Line for the first time, according to spokesman Jon Kaplan. The newer cars offer more room for standing passengers.
The city agency also added two additional trips during the morning rush and one additional trip during the evening rush.
Both are meant to address overcrowding on the Blue Line branch, which has seen explosive ridership growth in recent years in part due to all of the residential developments popping up along Milwaukee Avenue.
“We agree completely that the Blue Line needs to improve, which is why we’re making improvements like these to provide the best service we can now, while we also work on bigger, longer-term improvements,” Kaplan said in an email.
Up until last week, the only trains that ran on the Blue Line were the agency’s oldest cars — the 2600-series model, built in the 1980s and overhauled in the early 2000s.
But now the Blue Line has a bunch of 3200-series rail cars — the model that came after the 2600-series. About 100 of the 3200s, which came from the Orange and Brown Lines, will be fully deployed by Sunday, according to CTA officials.
Though the 3200s may not look outwardly different, they were recently overhauled, which should add to the line’s reliability, according to officials.
The CTA also recently began running 24 of the 5000-series rail cars on the Blue Line. Those cars, introduced in 2009, have already been deployed.
Currently, the power on the Blue Line’s O’Hare branch can’t support an entire fleet of 5000-series rail cars, but the CTA was able to add two dozen of them thanks to a new system in which they’re able to operate the cars out of a yard used by the Pink Line.
The main reason the Blue Line is only now getting newer train cars is because it’s lacking in sufficient power. But the CTA is working to change that.
Last year, the agency launched a $42.9 million project to upgrade three of the line’s electrical substations. It’s also building an additional substation, which is being funded by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s fee on Uber and Lyft drivers.
In 2020, when the work is complete, the CTA will begin replacing all of the Blue Line’s old rail cars with the next-generation 7000-series rail cars, the newest model.
CTA officials said it’s important to note that bringing over the newer rail cars is a short-term fix when it comes to addressing the Blue Line’s “unprecedented” ridership boom.
In addition to rolling out newer rail cars, the CTA is making major track and station upgrades all along the north branch of the Blue Line under the $492 million Your New Blue plan.
Of all the stations citywide, six of the top 10 with the biggest increase in morning rush hour use are along the north branch of the Blue Line, including all stations between Belmont and Damen.
The California and Logan Square stations saw the greatest ridership growth (in terms of number of riders) of any L stop between 2002 and 2017, data show.