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Metra to Retrofit Passenger Cars for the iPad, iPhone Era

The passenger car rehab program will help Metra riders recharge their electronic devices. Renovated cars will include power outlets and other rider-friendly features.

As part of a multiyear, multimillion-dollar program to renovate its rail cars, Metra is installing a variety of new features to improve the passenger experience—perhaps most noticeably by adding power outlets so riders can charge their electrical devices.

In a major cost-saving measure, the cars are being refurbished in-house by Metra workers.

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The program aims to rehabilitate 176 cars that were built by Amerail (originally Morrison Knudson) between 1995 and 1998. The car shells were built in Japan but the cars were assembled in Chicago. Forty cars have been completed so far and 60 should be completed by the end of the year. The entire Amerail fleet, which includes 79 cab cars and 97 trailer cars, should be done by the end of 2016, according to a prepared Metra statement.

The work will cost about $650,000 in materials and labor per car, or $115 million for the entire project, according to Metra estimates. Contrast that with the going rate for a new car, which is $2.5 million to $3 million, and that’s a savings of about 75 percent or more, Metra officials said.

In each car, 19 outlets will be spaced throughout the seating area on the lower level of the car to power phones, computers, iPods and similar music devices, iPads and similar tablet computers and other gadgets that commuters can not commute without.

However, when the renovations are complete, Metra will ban certain electric devices, such as:

  • Hair dryers,
  • Curling irons,
  • Fans,
  • Electric razors,
  • Toasters,
  • Extension cords and
  • Octopus plugs.

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