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CTA to buy 425 new buses as part of $500 million overhaul

Mayor Rahm Emanuel CTA President Forrest Claypool announced plans completely overhaul CTA bus fleet by 2014 CTA Garage 642 N.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool announced plans to completely overhaul the CTA bus fleet by 2014 at a CTA Garage at 642 N. Pulaski Rd. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 6, 2012 10:38AM

The CTA will dramatically upgrade its bus fleet — by purchasing 425 new buses and rebuilding 1,030 others — giving riders a smoother, more dependable ride and a better chance of getting a rush hour seat.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool announced the $500 million bus overhaul at the Chicago Avenue bus garage Friday, two days after the CTA lifted the immediate threat of a fare hike or service cuts.

“Within the next two years, the CTA will have an entirely bus fleet, thanks to the most ambitious bus replacement and rebuilding project in CTA history,” Claypool said.

“No matter where you get on a bus, you’ll soon find a modern, clean, efficient vehicle with a smooth, comfortable ride. Combined with extra seating capacity and other management and service planning reforms, this will allow us to reduce uncomfortable crowding and better meet the increase in ridership demand on popular routes.”

Using $330 million in CTA bonds backed by sales tax revenues, the CTA plans to buy 325 40-foot buses and 100 articulated buses each 60 feet long. That’s on top of the 100 other new buses already on order.

Together, those new buses — a combination of diesel-electric hybrids and lower-emission all-diesel — will allow the CTA to retire 479, 40-foot buses that have been on the street for 12 years. Forty-five, 30-foot buses will also be phased out.

The CTA’s bus fleet currently includes 1,780 buses. Even though the size of the fleet is not expected to change, CTA riders should have a greater chance of getting a rush hour seat because the new buses will be longer. Overall capacity is expected to increase by up to five percent.

The influx of brand new buses is only part of the face-lift. Another 1,030 older buses will be completely overhauled with new engines, suspensions, transmissions, heating and air-conditioning systems. That $165 million mid-life upgrade for buses that have piled up 250,000 miles apiece will allow those buses to remain on the street for six more years.

Claypool estimated that the overhaul would reduce CTA maintenance costs by $15 million by 2016.

“Only the steal frame will remain the same,” he said.

The five percent increase in bus capacity is well-timed. Last year, the number of CTA bus rides increased by four million—to 310 million paid bus rides. Nearly 60 percent of all CTA riders use buses.

Emanuel proudly reviewed the CTA scorecard for his first year in office: more than 100 CTA stations being “rehabbed, rebuilt or restored,” starting on the Red Line this weekend; nearly 1,800 security cameras installed — at every CTA station; 400 new Bus Trackers; 30 miles of track repairs and 706 new rail cars replacing two-thirds of the fleet.

“This [bus] purchase today is another reflection, in my view, of putting the commuter first,” he said.

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