Chicago Transit Authority President Frank Kruesi, at a news conference today, outlined the steps the CTA has taken to prepare its bus and rail fleet for winter weather.
In addition to routine annual winterization steps such as fleet inspections of heating, ventilation systems, cooling and electrical systems, Kruesi said the CTA has added some new, pro-active measures to prevent the type of equipment malfunctions and inaccurate internal communication that occurred during last January's blizzard.
"The CTA learned some valuable lessons from last winter's storm which helped us be better prepared for this season's winter weather. We've made it a point to address the mechanical vulnerabilities involving our 2600-series railcars that created most of the challenges the CTA faced last winter. We've re-evaluated a number of winter preparation procedures in order to increase efficiency and improve service to our customers during the cold weather months," said Kruesi.
The CTA has also incorporated recommendations from the American Public Transit Association's peer review of CTA operations during last January's blizzard.
In preparing for winter, the CTA fleet of more than 1,800 buses undergoes various checks of the batteries, engines, air tanks, drain tubes, windows, windshield wipers, vents, hatches and doors. Bus operators are reminded of inclement weather operating procedures and defensive driving techniques.
On the rail side, CTA inspects, rebuilds and installs all of the sleet scraper attachments on railcars. These prevent sleet and ice from forming on rails. De-icing units have been inspected and installed on rail cars as well.Diesel locomotives equipped with giant snow blowers on one end and large snow-removing rotary bristles on the other have been inspected and are ready for action in case of a snow emergency.
Rail station sandboxes are filled, platform heaters are inspected and turned on, water pipes are furnished with heat tracers to prevent pipes from freezing or bursting.
In addition, the CTA has taken six pro-active measures to prepare the rail fleet for severe weather during this winter season.
* Creation of an Integrated Severe Weather Plan:
The CTA has unified the winter plans from the Rail Operations, Bus Operations and Facilities divisions into one single integrated plan that can be executed and monitored more effectively.
The unified plan will improve communications between divisions and will help ensure that accurate and timely information is collected and passed on to the public. For example, starting this year rail cars will be inspected before each rush hour so the exact count of available equipment ready for service is determined early.
* Acceleration of the Rehabilitation of 2600-series railcars:
The rehabilitation of the 2600-series 'L' cars continues at an accelerated pace and will be completed approximately 18 months, and two winters, ahead of the original timetable. Most of the problems the CTA encountered during last winter's storm were with these railcars.
The rehabilitation includes the redesign of the electronic controls so they are no longer ventilated, but in sealed compartments. This will improve their ability to perform efficiently in severe weather.
To date, a total of 108 railcars have been renovated and are in service.By mid-December, the CTA will receive a total of 132 rehabilitated 2600- series cars.
* Coordination with Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT):
To avoid the buildup of compacted snow and ice that contributed to third rail damage during the blizzard, the CTA has been working with IDOT in the joint development of a plan to remove snow from our right of way while trains are operating.
* Intensified Re-training of Rail Operating Staff:
All operating personnel will receive refresher training on the proper operation of rail equipment during inclement weather.
This training includes: side door operation at terminals when temperature is below freezing; lowering sleet scrapers; starting and stopping on slippery rails and the proper way to manually operate the switches that change the direction of rail tracks when they freeze in extreme cold weather.
* Staffing of Diesel Snow Removal Equipment:
A team of operators trained in the use of the diesel equipment will be assigned to snow removal duty in case of a winter snow emergency.
* Re-deployment of Administrative Staff:
In order to obtain more timely information reported directly to the CTA Control Center regarding overcrowding conditions on platforms and traffic flow, exempt employees will continue to be re-assigned from office jobs and sent out to monitor passenger loading at rail stations during emergencies so CTA staff can adjust service to better meet customer demand.
"Even under the most extreme weather, the CTA will continue to provide this region with as much service as possible, as safely as possible, and as equitably as possible. We are committed to our customers. It is with them in mind that we have worked to be in a better position, so we can deliver better service," said CTA President Kruesi.###