The CTA is continuing the preparation of its bus and rail fleets for winter operating conditions and the challenges cold weather brings. Over the past year, the CTA has increased the dependability of both fleets by adding or rehabilitating equipment to withstand conditions more effectively and provide improved customer comforts.
During the year, 309 new low-floor Nova buses were delivered to CTA, replacing vehicles that were 15 years old or older. Another 160 more Novas will be delivered through 2002, for a total of 469. Besides providing more efficient air-conditioning and heating systems, the buses are also equipped with pre-heaters that circulate antifreeze through the engines to ensure quick starts and speed the warming of bus interiors.
Pre-heaters are standard equipment on newer buses, but were not included on buses purchased before 1995. Some 180 older TMC buses have been retrofitted with pre-heaters as part of a mid-life rehab, which over the next year will include the remaining 309 buses in that group. Of the CTA's 1,918 buses, 53 percent are now equipped with pre-heaters.
With the continuing delivery of new buses and the retrofitting of older buses, 71 percent of the bus fleet will have pre-heaters by the end of 2002. By that time, virtually the entire fleet will be accessible to customers with disabilities and air-conditioned.
Forest Glen and North Park garages, two of the CTA's oldest facilities, have only outside storage for buses. In frigid temperatures, buses at these facilities that are not equipped with pre-heaters must be idled to charge the batteries and warm the engines so they will start in time for service. In the past, idling has been a concern for some neighbors living near these garages, and the CTA is sending the garages more buses with pre-heaters to address that concern.
Beginning the first week in December, Forest Glen, at 5419 W. Armstrong, will receive 129 more buses with pre-heaters in exchange for an equal number of buses sent to garages where pre-heaters are not needed. This will bring to 204, or 84 percent of its 244 buses, the number that will be equipped with this device. In a similar exchange, North Park, at 3112 W. Foster, will receive 60 more buses with pre-heaters. Added to 168 of its buses already equipped, this will make 79 percent of North Park's 290 buses ready to roll with pre-heaters.
These changes will make both garages better neighbors in the communities they serve. They will also provide savings for the CTA. By not having to idle buses, there will be less wear on bus engines, and the CTA will achieve cost savings by using less fuel. Features such as pre-heaters on buses are among the many service improvements the CTA has been able to make thanks to the funding provided by Governor George Ryan's Illinois FIRST program.
CTA's rail car preparations for winter include the installation of sleet scrapers and the attachment of V-shaped snowplow blades on the front of all cars. Some cars are specially equipped for another cold-weather function. While operating in regular service, they can accommodate self-contained units that are used to spread de-icer fluid onto the power rail.
The continuing upgrading of the CTA's rail fleet can be expected to provide increasingly reliable service during the coming winter season. Of the 1,190 cars in the fleet, about half have been undergoing mid-life rehabilitation. Through mid-November, 452 of the 598 cars in this group were back in service with new propulsion and power systems, and new windscreens at doorways to reduce drafts and improve passenger safety and comfort. Most importantly, the rehabbed cars have a new system of electronic controls that operate in a sealed compartment, thereby eliminating any exposure to extreme weather conditions.
For severe winter snowstorms, the CTA has four diesel-powered snow fighter locomotives capable of reaching every part of the system. A powerful snow blower is attached to one end of each locomotive, and a rotating snow broom at the other. In addition, six small diesel-powered snow brooms are kept ready to clear snow off tracks in rail yards at the end of each line.
The CTA's Facilities Maintenance Department has restocked sand boxes on rail platforms and salt storage boxes at bus turnarounds so these supplies are available when needed. Preventative maintenance has also been performed on plow trucks/spreaders so they will be ready to keep garages and other facilities functioning. Snow blowers, shovels, scrapers and other tools used to keep station platforms clear of ice and snow have been inventoried and replaced where needed. Platform heater fixtures have also been tested for service.
?New and rehabilitated equipment has put the CTA in much better shape than ever before to withstand winter weather conditions," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. "With pre-heaters warming up a growing number of buses before they start out each day, and additional rehabbed train cars back in service with sealed-in electronic controls, better preventative maintenance and upgraded equipment will make our system function more effectively for all our customers."
?Winter preparedness is important so we can provide reliable service regardless of weather conditions," said CTA Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett. "The pre-heaters on buses help make us a better neighbor by limiting the time we have to idle buses around garages so they can be ready for cold-weather service."
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