Top of the Line, 60-foot Buses Bringing Increased Reliability and Comfort
Mayor Richard M. Daley and CTA officials today unveiled the prototype for the CTA's newest addition to its bus fleet, the North American Bus Industries (NABI) low-floor articulated bus.
The first of 226 articulated, or accordion-style, buses will begin arriving this spring, increasing the reliability of CTA service and upgrading the fleet. With the addition of these buses, the CTA's entire bus fleet will be air conditioned and accessible by the end of 2003. Aggressive fleet modernization over the past five years has contributed to five consecutive years of increased ridership.
"With these new buses, express trips between outlying neighborhoods and downtown will be more enjoyable and dependable in any time of year," Mayor Daley said at a news conference at the CTA bus garage at 1702 E. 103rd St. ?The CTA's fleet and service improvements have contributed to a better quality of life in every part of the city. When you look at the cost of gasoline, the cost of parking and the wear and tear on your nerves of fighting rush-hour traffic -- it just makes sense to use the CTA."
The NABI buses are 60-feet long, have seats for 61 passengers and no steps upon entry. Compared to the older models, which have three steps, the new NABI's will be easier to board. They also have a ramp that can be extended to the sidewalk to provide accessibility to customers with disabilities.
?Upgrading the CTA bus fleet with new articulated buses, and enhancing service along Lake Shore Drive, are more steps in CTA's effort to bring its system to a state of good repair," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?Both regular and new customers are experiencing our comfortable and convenient service everyday.
These new articulated buses will help accommodate growth in ridership, especially along the eight Lake Shore Drive express routes, for fast trips to the downtown area."
These buses are well suited for the express routes that use both North and South Lake Shore Drive because two articulated buses can replace three 40-foot standard-sized buses, allowing fewer buses to carry the same number of people and reducing the chance of bus bunching.
From 1997 to 2002, average weekday ridership on Lake Shore Drive routes grew 17.6 percent to more than 62,000 customers, an outgrowth of more than 40 service improvements on the Lake Shore Drive routes that took place over that time period.
Since November 1998, CTA has made service improvements on 50% of its bus routes, and on all of its rail routes. A total of 170 improvements have been implemented. This includes 13 new bus routes, expanded hours of service, added trips to reduce wait time, and route changes to improve access and connectivity. The greatest number of improvements has been to add trips to improve the frequency of CTA buses and trains.
?This is a significant milestone for the CTA," said CTA Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett. "Customers who ride express routes will welcome the added comfort these new buses provide, and the low floors will make boarding and exiting easier for everyone. The buses will run on ultra low sulfur diesel fuel, which will produce one ton less pollution a year than each of the buses they will be replacing."
Newer equipment means greater reliability for the entire CTA fleet as older buses are retired and fewer repairs are needed to keep the remaining buses in good working order. Reliability increased with the arrival this winter of the last of 484 new low-floor, standard-sized Nova buses. Another 474 standard-sized, lift-equipped TMC buses purchased in 1990-91 have been rehabilitated for greater reliability and equipped with air-conditioning.
In addition, the new articulated NABI buses will give CTA the flexibility to replace articulated buses that have been in service for more than 20 years. It also will allow the CTA to begin phasing out the 73 40-foot buses remaining in its fleet of 2,008 buses that are neither air-conditioned nor accessible to customers with disabilities.
The accordion-style buses were purchased from North American Bus Industries, Inc. of Anniston, Alabama, which was the lowest bidder. They have a hydraulically operated front-door ramp for access by customers in wheelchairs, and can accommodate two wheelchairs in place of flip-up seats near the front.
Standard equipment includes surveillance cameras for added security, windows covered with vandal-resistant material for easy replacement, an automated announcement system, and bicycle rack on the front that can hold two bicycles at a time. Low floors will make the buses easier to board, air-conditioning will make them comfortable to ride, and the double-stream rear doors will speed travel by allowing more customers to exit easily at the back.
The first of the NABI buses will arrive this spring, and the CTA expects to have all 226 in service within a year. The total purchase price is $98.7 million, or approximately $430,737 per bus. Funding is provided by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Illinois FIRST program, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the CTA.# # #