The CTA Board Wednesday approved the purchase of 100 articulated buses from Seattle King County Metro in Washington state. The 60-foot buses, which have seats for 70 passengers and are accessible to persons with disabilities, will supplement service on heavy-volume routes like the #6 Jeffery Express, #14 South Lake Shore Express and #147 Outer Drive Express, where the CTA operates its existing articulated bus fleet.
The CTA's remaining 73 articulated buses have been in service since 1982, and are becoming increasingly costly to maintain. While bids are now out for the purchase of 80 new models, with options to buy an additional 120, the first new buses won?t be available for service until 2002. In the meantime, the CTA needs high-capacity buses to meet service demands that already call for more than one bus every two minutes during the height of the morning rush period on Jeffery Boulevard alone.
Bus ridership remains the core of the CTA system, accounting for two-thirds of all rides taken. On an average weekday, over 1 million CTA customers ride buses, while 500,000 use the rail system. Although CTA experienced a 40-percent decline in bus ridership from 1985 through 1997, the downward spiral was reversed in 1998, and ridership increased by 2.9 percent in 1999. For the first six months of 2000, bus ridership climbed 2.3 percent higher than for the same period of 1999, with 3.4 million more trips recorded.
"Federal regulations required us to reduce our fleet by about 20 percent when ridership levels couldn?t justify maintaining so many buses," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. "While we expect delivery on the first of more than 450 new standard-sized buses later this year, the high-volume routes where we run articulated buses need relief right now. The buses we?ll be getting from Seattle are in much better shape than ours because winter weather conditions up there aren?t as harsh. They?ll provide the reliable service our customers demand."
The CTA has studied the possibility of overhauling its existing fleet of 73 articulated buses. The study estimated that it would require at least 800 hours of work by maintenance personnel to recondition each bus at a total cost per unit of $29,400 for labor and parts. The cost of purchasing the lift-equipped buses from Seattle and bringing them into service is estimated at up to $2 million, or $20,000 each. A brand new articulated bus costs upwards of $450,000. The articulated buses in both the CTA and Seattle Metro fleets were manufactured by M.A.N. (Maschinenfabrik-Augsburg-Nuernberg), of Munich, Germany. # # #