November 20, 2003

As winter fast approaches, the Chicago Transit Authority is preparing its bus and rail fleet to contend with Chicago's winter weather. In an ongoing effort to improve the reliability of its fleet, the CTA today provided details of the mid-life overhaul of two models of buses at a press event at its Bus Heavy Maintenance facility on Chicago's South Side. Every year the bus and rail fleet, as well as CTA facilities, undergo a series of maintenance measures designed to prepare for inclement weather. Fleet upgrades throughout the year also help contribute to reliability throughout the winter.

"We believe that the best response to winter weather is to operate a well-maintained bus and rail fleet. New and rehabbed buses and trains help to improve the reliability of our fleet," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?We are receiving new buses on an ongoing basis and are overhauling hundreds of buses in our existing fleet. Last year we completed a four-year process to upgrade half of our rail fleet, and we continue to do the same for our bus fleet."

This summer, the CTA started the three-year process of overhauling 330 of the 6000-series Flxible buses. The buses are rotated out of service in small groups, with the first six out of 23 currently being rebuilt already back in service. The CTA is investing $26.9 million in capital funds in the fleet upgrade. Additionally, the CTA is overhauling all 65 of its New Flyer buses (5800 Series) at a cost of $7.3 million.

The overhaul process includes rebuilding the engine and transmission, pre-heater replacement, air conditioning overhaul, installation of seating fabric, improved destination signs and rebuilt ramps for mobility devices. Investing in the mid-life overhaul process helps improve performance and reliability as well as extending the service-life of CTA buses. The improved overall condition of the vehicles also helps to reduce maintenance costs.

Pre-heaters are installed on buses housed at outdoor garages to ensure they will start easily and warm up quickly before entering service. These pre-heaters provide cost savings for the CTA because the buses do not have to be kept idling, causing less wear on bus engines and requiring less fuel. Pre-heaters also provide supplemental heat to the engine coolant, providing additional warmth to bus interiors and a more comfortable ride for customers.

CTA's Bus Operations team uses an annual 30-point winter preparation checklist to get buses ready for cold weather operation. Checking heaters, engine thermostats and batteries and making sure windows, roof hatches and doors close securely are among the winter preparation activities.

The rail fleet also is being readied for winter. The CTA invested $354.7 million in a four-year rehabilitation of its 2600 series railcars. The rehabilitation project was completed in October 2002 as the last of the rehabbed cars were delivered and returned to service. The most significant upgrade completed on the rail cars was the installation of stainless steel casing to house the electronic controls from the elements. Upgrading the operational equipment as well as customer amenities both contribute to an improved transit experience for CTA customers.

In addition, the entire rail fleet is outfitted with sleet scrapers and snowplow blades that help to keep the track clear of ice and snow. The V-shaped blades are about three-feet wide and 10 inches high, and are placed approximately two inches above the top of running rails. There also are 182 cars that are equipped to spread de-icer fluid onto the power rail.

When severe winter weather hits, CTA has four diesel-powered snow fighter trains that are capable of reaching every part of its rail system to clear tracks of ice and snow. In addition, six small diesel-powered brooms stationed around the system are used to clear snow from the tracks of the rail yards at the end of each line.

CTA facilities have also been conducting routine winter preparation activities. To keep its facilities operating efficiently during winter weather, the CTA is restocking sand boxes on rail station platforms and salt storage boxes at bus turnarounds. Plow trucks/spreaders have received preventative maintenance and are ready to keep garages and other facilities functioning.

Overhead platform heater fixtures currently are being tested for service, and snow blowers, shovels, scrapers and other tools used to keep station platforms clear of ice and snow are being inventoried and replaced.

"Thanks to Mayor Richard M. Daley, Governor Rod Blagojevich, U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and other lawmakers at every level, CTA has the support it needs as it rebuilds its system and brings the fleet to a state of good repair," noted Kruesi. ?As we continue to modernize and upgrade our fleet, our customers will enjoy an increased level of service reliability, not only in the winter months, but also throughout the year."

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