Of the 10 Chicago Transit Authority buses CityLink purchased more than a year ago, all but two are routinely, if not daily, used for service. "It was a heck of a deal. I'd do it again," CityLink general manager Tom Lucek said Wednesday. "We really got our money's worth. There's no question we were lucky to get them."

Of the 10 Chicago Transit Authority buses CityLink purchased more than a year ago, all but two are routinely, if not daily, used for service.


The two that never leave the Jefferson Avenue garage fill a different need. They are used for scrap and parts to maintain the transit company's aging fleet.


"It was a heck of a deal. I'd do it again," CityLink general manager Tom Lucek said Wednesday. "We really got our money's worth. There's no question we were lucky to get them."


He's referring to the $875 price tag CityLink paid for each bus.


"In all reality, the tires were that much," assistant general manager Rick Tieken said of the 40-seat buses. "Several of them had engines that were still under warranty."


After spending close to $9,000 for all the buses, CityLink pumped another $2,000 into the eight buses used on routes. That cost covered new shocks and other minor repairs on the TMC-brand buses, a model that was retired more than 18 years ago.


A year later, four of the buses remain in service. One is used on a daily basis, and two are for backup. The last is in need of a transmission. The other four are kept for special events or when needed for other reasons.


"It has really helped us out to have those buses here," said Tieken.


CityLink, with help from the Illinois Department of Transportation, purchased four buses from Rockford, which recently replaced its fleet. For $1 each, CityLink will use the buses over the next two years, while Rockford's transit company maintains ownership.


Two of those buses are in service now. The other two will be here this summer.


"We're always trying to have a bandage, a bridge until we get our (new) buses next year," said Lucek.


The buses from Chicago and Rockford are a temporary patch until CityLink gets its 21 new buses. Bought with federal stimulus money and scheduled to hit the assembly line in April 2011, the buses should be ready for service by June.


"Just in time for the hot summer," said Lucek, noting buses, like cars, take a beating in extreme weather.


The new buses will be used as "all-day" buses, running from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. the next day. The best of the old fleet will run routes at only peak times in the morning and evening.


Federal stimulus money also purchased 31 new paratransit vans, two of which arrived Wednesday and were put into service. Two more will arrive Friday and then four a week until all of them arrive in early April.


Leslie Williams can be reached at (309) 686-3188 or lwilliams@pjstar.com.