Mayor Richard M. Daley joined Chicago Transit Authority President Frank Kruesi Tuesday at the CTA's 77th Street Garage to place in service the first of 469 new standard-sized, low-floor, air-conditioned buses from Nova Bus Inc. as a sample of the fleet modernization that is under way at the CTA.
Driven by 77th Street Garage Bus Roadeo Champion Operator Jonathan White, the bus entered service to downtown on the #3 King Drive route.
Mayor Daley said, "These buses are emblematic of the important changes that have been taking place at the CTA in recent years, as the system is renewed and improved to meet the transportation needs of its customers. I think many of us take the CTA for granted. But in reality, it is absolutely vital to the economic health of Chicago and its residents."
Featuring state-of-the-art, picture-window design, the Nova buses are 40 feet long and have wide-stream front doorways. They have surveillance cameras for added security, and windows that are covered with vandal-resistant material. Floors between front and rear doors are only 14? inches off the ground, or 20 inches lower than on a standard bus. A kneeling feature can lower the front step four more inches, making it easier for mobility-limited passengers to board.
The low floor eliminates the need for a lift. Instead, a hydraulic front-door ramp can be folded out from the floor of the bus to allow wheelchair access. The buses also feature electronic destination signs with large type and bright, L.E.D. lighting that allow waiting riders to see the bus route number and name from a considerable distance.
?We worked closely with the CTA's ADA Advisory Committee to make sure certain features in these buses answered the concerns of the disabled community," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. "Altogether, we made more than a dozen design changes to address those concerns. The results will make mainline bus service a more attractive option for disabled customers."
Among the changes were the modification of front door grabhandles to minimize potential hazards for passengers boarding in wheelchairs; removing three inches from the front vestibule farebox platform to increase wheelchair maneuverability; lowering the farebox to make it more user friendly, and changing one of the wheelchair positions to provide greater clearance if both positions are in use at the same time.
Besides air-conditioning, Nova buses have hopper windows above the large fixed side windows that can be opened for ventilation. There are seats for 37 customers, including positions on either side near the front that can be flipped up to provide space for securing wheelchairs, and an elevated deck with seating in the rear. The exit door is at the same level as the front entrance.
At least 309 Nova buses are expected to be in service by the end of 2001, and 160 more the following year. The cost of the entire program is estimated at $126.4 million. The buses are being assembled in Schenectady, New York.
"We know our customers have been waiting for these buses with great anticipation," said CTA Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett. "They are the first new models of the 21st Century, and they represent the core of a program that will see our fleet upgraded to where over 99 percent of our buses will be air-conditioned and accessible to customers with disabilities by 2003."
In addition to the 469 standard-sized buses on order from Nova, the CTA is upgrading its bus and rail fleets with several other major initiatives. To ensure the continuation of high-capacity bus capability on heavy-volume routes, the CTA is in the process of ordering up to 200 new articulated (accordion-style) buses.
To supplement its existing fleet of aging buses until the new articulated models are available for service, the CTA has acquired 100 lift-equipped articulated buses from Seattle that have seats for 70 passengers. The CTA is also overhauling 475 standard-sized, lift-equipped buses to extend their service life and add air-conditioning units they did not have when they were purchased 10 years ago.
Meanwhile, the first 292 of 598 rail cars that were delivered to CTA between 1981 and 1987 have been returned to service after a mid-life overhaul. Among other improvements, the 2600-series cars, as they are known, are being redesigned so their electronic controls will perform efficiently, even in the most severe weather, and they are also being provided with more powerful air-conditioning systems.
In May, 1999, Mayor Daley and Governor George Ryan held a press conference at the CTA's nearby Bus Maintenance facility to highlight how the Governor's Illinois FIRST program could help the CTA replace old buses and upgrade its fleet. Thanks to Illinois FIRST funding, the CTA was able to order three times more new buses than originally budgeted.
"The CTA is moving ahead on many fronts to make our service on-time, clean, safe and friendly in all seasons," said President Kruesi. "The fleet improvements and our upcoming rehab programs for the Blue and Brown Lines wouldn?t have been possible without the excellent bi-partisan support we have had from Mayor Daley, Governor Ryan, Speaker Hastert and all the members of the Illinois General Assembly and the Illinois Congressional delegation who worked to provide the needed funding. On behalf of the CTA's hundreds of thousands of daily riders, we want to thank you very much."###