The CTA Wednesday introduced the pilot model of a new group of low-floor, air-conditioned buses that will serve CTA customers through the early years of the 21st Century. The pilot bus will be reviewed by CTA operating departments and the ADA Advisory Board to determine if any design changes are needed before production begins. Plans call for the first of 150 buses to be delivered this summer.
CTA plans to purchase 450 of the buses by the year 2002. Under CTA's proposed 2000-2004 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), another 542 new buses are to be purchased by 2004, allowing for replacement of more than half of the current CTA fleet.
The purchase of the first 150 buses was approved by the CTA Board in July, 1998, under a competitively bid $38.7 million contract that was awarded to Nova BUS Inc., which will assemble the buses in Schenectady, New York. A surveillance system and vandal-resistant windows will be on the buses when they are delivered.
A contract option to purchase up to 160 additional buses was exercised by the CTA Board at its November, 1999 meeting, and calls for delivery in 2001. By exercising a second option in the contract, the total number of buses purchased from Nova would reach 450 by 2002. The average price for each Nova bus would be $239,000.
"We?re trying to plan for around 150 buses to be delivered each year so we can maintain our fleet more efficiently," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. 'smaller groups of buses are easier to bring on line, to maintain once they are in service, and to replace when they reach retirement age. We also want the arrival of new buses to be something our customers can look forward to regularly."
Sporting a state-of-the-art, picture-window design, the Nova buses are 40 feet long and have double front doors that create a four-foot-wide entrance. Floors are only 14.5 inches off the ground, or about 20 inches lower than the third step on a standard bus. A kneeling feature can lower the front step an additional four inches, making it easier for seniors to board.
The low floor eliminates the need for a lift. Instead, a hydraulic front-door ramp can be extended from the floor of the bus to allow wheelchair access for persons with disabilities.
Besides air-conditioning, the Nova buses have hopper windows above the large fixed side windows that can be opened for ventilation. There are seats for 37 customers, including two bench seats that can be flipped up to secure space for wheelchairs, and others that are on an elevated deck in the rear. The rear exit is at the same level as the front entrance.
The CTA also announced Wednesday that work has been completed on the first of 490 buses scheduled for overhaul at its Bus Heavy Maintenance facility on the South Side. Delivered in 1990-91 from the Transportation Manufacturing Corporation, of Roswell, New Mexico, 475 of these vehicles were CTA's first mainline buses to be equipped with front-door lifts for persons with disabilities. At the time they were ordered, CTA did not require the buses to be air-conditioned.
The overhaul was undertaken to ensure a minimum 15 years of service for the buses. It was also seen as an opportunity to enhance passenger comfort by installing air-conditioning on these buses once a contract has been awarded later this year.
Among other improvements will be the conversion of seat inserts to a vandal-resistant fabric, the replacement of touch bars on rear doors for easier exiting, and the sealing of air leaks around windows and doors for better climate control.
"These buses still have several good years left in them," President Kruesi said, "and we want our customers to be comfortable riding them in summer as well as winter. Providing air-conditioning as part of this mid-life bus overhaul is essential to making our service on-time, clean, safe and friendly."
The CTA's 2000-2004 CIP also calls for replacing aging high-capacity articulated buses that are used on such heavily traveled routes as the #6 Jeffery Express, #14 South Lake Shore Express and #147 Outer Drive Express. About 75 of these buses, which entered service in 1982, are still in operation, and will be replaced by new low-floor models with air-conditioning.
Under the 2000-2004 CIP, CTA would also replace about 467 buses that were received from the Flxible Corporation of Delaware, Ohio, in 1991. These were the first CTA buses equipped with both air-conditioning and lifts, so their replacement would complete a purchasing and overhaul cycle that would leave the CTA with a fleet that is almost 100 percent air-conditioned and accessible.###