Photo: nancy stone/chicago tribune

Riders crammed into a seat on a CTA train last summer.

If you're harboring a personal complaint about the CTA's new trains, you can take a few actions. You can stand there on the train, hanging from a strap, suffering and sighing loudly. You can send a tweet to the excellent @CTAFails. You can get off and walk.

Or you can tell the CTA directly. The agency has sent out a survey to its riders this week, Red Eye reports. The CTA is trying to figure out what configurations of trains everyone wants to ride, so it can plan the next types of cars to buy.

Honestly, in taking the survey, I found myself recalling a few of the points Jeff Ruby made in his great “Cars From El” jeremiad against the CTA's latest train models. In the extremely short amount of time I've lived in Chicago, I've already developed such strong opinions about the type of train I want to ride. I'll let Ruby explain the psychology here:

When we boarded the old cars, our limbs acted on impulse. Within milliseconds, we could scan the entire car, with all its familiar nooks and crannies, and immediately understand where the most desirable spot was and how likely we were to get it—and what our next best option was if we didn’t. If that plum seat over there was open only because it had some mysterious stain or the guy beside it smelled like a gibbon’s armpit, we knew before looking and/or sniffing. With a quick glance, we sensed who was pregnant and who simply obese. We stood if we had to and sat if we could. We moved to the middle of the car and got up for seniors not because we were kind, but because it was the el and that’s just what you did.

Everyone knew how the game was played—even the riders who refused to play along: the pole huggers, the door whores, and the individuals who used bags to save seats for imaginary friends. And the rule followers instinctively knew which of their fellow riders could not be counted on to follow the rules. Our heads did all the social geometry; our bodies responded accordingly. 

For me, happy to stand on most rides, it's just a matter of finding a pole. The straps, common in the newer cars, are too unstable to keep a steady grip as the train lurches and sways. The seat back handles, a big part of the old cars, are just below my center of gravity. But those older cars—and apparently even newer plastic-benched cars the CTA seems to be considering—have plenty of poles. That's the key thing. I need to get a grip at chest height on a pole. Preferably not too greasy.

That, at least, is what I made clear on my survey to the CTA. If you ride these trains every day, you too have a strong opinion on this topic. Speak now.