The CTA’s fleet of over 220 North American Bus Industries articulated buses will not return to service, the Chicago Tribune reported today. The CTA will return the buses to NABI, which has now issued a voluntary recall. The CTA is the sole operator of the 60LFW model in question.
The NABI buses were originally sidelined last February after an out of service bus experienced a complete structural failure in its articulation joint.
According to the Tribune, the CTA is working with the Federal Transit Administration to “preserve federal interest” in the remaining value of the buses. The FTA typically requires that buses purchased with federal funds remain in service for at least 12 years. Eighty percent, or about $55 million, of the $102.1 million contract was paid with federal funds.
The Tribune also revealed that the CTA had plans to prematurely retire the NABI buses as early as September 2008. In a letter to the FTA, then CTA president Ron Huberman wrote that it was “no longer prudent to continue to operate these buses in revenue service.” Huberman requested the FTA’s permission “to remove the buses from service and dispose of them as quickly as possible.”
Aside from structural flaws in the frames, the NABI buses had long been prone to numerous mechanical defects related to the suspension, rear doors, and other areas. This often resulted in the buses experiencing a failure rate higher than that of buses three times their age.
The CTA is currently involved in ongoing litigation with NABI, sparked after the agency stopped payment on the bus contract in 2004.
While the removal of the NABI buses in February initially led to a major fleet shortage, the gap has been largely filled by ongoing deliveries of the 4000-series New Flyer articulated buses. Nearly all of the 150 buses in that order have been received, with an additional 58 new articulated buses expected to begin arriving in July.