|CTA promises like-new bus fleet---Agency to buy 425 buses & rebuild 1,000 (261441)|
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CTA promises like-new bus fleet---Agency to buy 425 buses & rebuild 1,000
Posted by Gold_12TH on Fri Jun 1 13:59:07 2012Moving toward operating an "essentially new'' bus fleet within the next two years, the CTA will buy 425 buses and rebuild more than 1,000 older buses in a nearly half-billion-dollar modernization investment that's one of the most ambitious of its kind at the transit agency, officials will announce Friday.
CTA customers can look forward to a smoother and quieter ride, including more reliable heating and air conditioning systems and a better chance of getting a seat on the bus during peak hours on popular routes, officials said.
The transit agency sees the opportunity to get a fuller life out of its younger buses and retire the oldest and worst pollution-belchers in the fleet, officials said.
CTA President Forrest Claypool said he projects the agency will reduce maintenance costs by millions of dollar annually, money that potentially could be pumped into providing more bus service.
CTA officials say other major benefits include cutting smog emissions by one-third and asthma-causing soot particulates by more than half, compared with the current fleet mix.
Under the plan, the CTA will buy 325 40-foot buses and 100 60-foot articulated or accordion-style buses, using the CTA's bond funds backed by sales taxes, officials told the Tribune. No state or federal funds are anticipated, they added.
The bus orders will be for a combination of diesel-electric hybrids and lower-emission all-diesel vehicles, officials said. The estimated cost of the purchases is $330 million, officials said, adding that companies will be asked to submit bids for the bus order soon.
The first new buses will begin arriving later this year, and deliveries will be completed over the next two years, CTA officials said.
The 425 new buses are separate from the CTA's purchase in May of 100 brand-new New Flyer Industries articulated buses that became available from a contract involving the Seattle transit system. Those 100 buses, which the CTA is acquiring for $80.1 million, are set to arrive in Chicago late this year through mid-2013.
"No matter where you get on a bus, you'll be boarding a clean, modern, efficient vehicle with a smooth, comfortable ride," Claypool said Thursday. "Just as important, the bus-overhaul effort will create over 200 good-paying jobs."
The current fleet of 1,780 CTA buses is dominated by New Flyers, but other manufacturers are encouraged to participate in the upcoming procurement process, officials said.
As part of the fleet-improvement project, 1,030 older buses that still have about six years of service life left will be completely overhauled, at an estimated cost of $165 million, officials said. New engines, transmissions, suspensions — everything except the steel frame — will be replaced on the buses, officials said.
Those buses have logged 250,000 miles on average at their midlife, officials said.
The bus-overhaul program also will be paid for using sales tax bonds, officials said. Savings in repair and maintenance costs will total a projected $15 million by 2016, the officials said.
The total number of buses in the fleet will not change significantly, but passenger capacity will increase by 4 to 5 percent thanks to more larger buses, CTA spokesman Brian Steele said.
The CTA will retire 479 40-foot Nova buses that are 12 years old, which is the recommended service life of transit buses, CTA spokeswoman Molly Sullivan said. Forty-five 30-foot Optima buses will also be phased out, she said.
The agency will also continue to operate 208 New Flyer articulated buses that are 3 to 4 years old, officials said.
The fleet enhancements should ease overcrowding on buses and help meet demands for future ridership, Claypool said.
Bus rides on the CTA increased by more than 4 million in 2011. Bus service accounts for almost 60 percent of daily ridership on the CTA, according to the transit agency.