Revamping CTA’s Articulated Buses

By Brian Lowenberg, Capital Program Specialist, Capital Programs

What’s your favorite CTA bus? I’ve always liked the bendy buses, or in CTA speak: articulated buses. They are spacious, well lit and provide a comfortable ride on some of CTA’s busier routes. CTA’s articulated buses, also known as the 4000 series, were manufactured by New Flyer and went into service in 2008. These buses are unique not only because they bend in the middle but also because they have a hybrid powertrain system (powered by a diesel engine and additional battery power).

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After 10 years of service, in Chicago’s harsh environment, these buses have seen several hundred thousand miles of wear and tear and were ready to be refurbished so that they could continue to faithfully serve riders for at least another 10 years. RTA’s Capital Team was instrumental in lining up funding so that the project could proceed. Over $15,000,000 was provided by RTA from RTA bonds issued in 2016.

Like the powertrain system, this project required coordination and collaboration between multiple pieces in order for the project to work harmoniously. The RTA’s Project Management Oversight (PMO) group also played an important role in the rehab process. The PMO Team is tasked with overseeing   capital projects to make sure that the work meets the specifications agreed upon, is within budget, provides value to the regional transit system, and works with the service boards to help reduce schedule delays should any arise. The PMO Team regularly worked with the CTA team to ensure the contractors’ finished product is a major improvement for riders.

The rehab process included replacing the powertrain, rehabbed the articulated joint, replaced door opening mechanisms, revamped the suspension, and replaced the hybrid components that power the bus. While the finished product may look very familiar, it’s an entirely new bus under the hood.

As the project is wrapping up, the Capital and PMO teams had the opportunity to visit the garage where the overhaul was occurring. Cummins, the engine manufacturer, along with New Flyer, the bus manufacturer, worked together to perform the rehab work at two garages in Hodgkins, IL. Their facilities are state of the art and can even handle the new Pace CNG Buses that I mentioned back in my last blog post.

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The RTA was glad to have the opportunity to inspect the finished product at the garage. With most of the buses already returning to service, customers will have the opportunity to ride the updated buses well in to the future.

We look forward to continuing to share the investments that RTA, CTA, Metra and Pace are making on capital projects, which are helping to improve the reliability of the system, improve your experience riding on our services and bringing the system towards a state of good repair.

Brian Lowenberg joined the Regional Transportation Authority in 2017 as an intern in the Regional Coordination Department, while completing his Master’s Degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois, Chicago. After graduation, he joined the RTA full time as Capital Programming Specialist in the Capital Programming Department.  Brian believes in the importance of public transportation in creating a thriving region. Having lived in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Hong Kong, San Francisco, the South of France and now Chicago, he has experienced the incredible value that transportation brings to cities around the world.