The system had to be a touchless or hybrid system, be capable of washing all sizes of vehicles, be capable of utilizing a water reclaim system, be capable of utilizing a reverse osmosis system for spot-free drying, be able to fit into the existing space in the bus storage garage and allow owner controllability and adjustability with only minimal training.
A touchless system utilizes high pressure sprayers to clean so there are no mechanical parts that actually touch the vehicle as it moves through the wash. This type of system is ideal for not scratching vehicles, but is not the most effective for particularly dirty buses. A hybrid system uses both brushes and sprayers to clean vehicles, and is good because of the ability to control when brushes are activated during the wash cycle. For example, the brushes do not activate until after the mirrors on the bus have passed the brushes which eliminates damage to the mirrors. A wash utilizing many brushes without high pressure spray provides a good wash, but damage to vehicles is more likely.
Effective cleaning measures can improve bus maintenance. High pressure sprayers can be utilized in the underbody washing section of the wash; however, caution should be used if vehicles have a wood floor. Spinners and straight-piped manifold sprayers can be used to effectively reduce the amount of cleaning required before bus maintenance begins. Removing daily dirt and buildup underneath the bus can also promote longevity of parts. The Rapid’s wash utilizes under-vehicle sprayers aimed at the brake pads of the bus to help reduce brake dust. This helps keep the bus clean and makes changing the brake pads easier.
A system that is capable of washing all sizes of vehicles is important for a transit authority because of the amount of time that can be saved by not hand washing. Buses are not the only vehicles that The Rapid utilizes. It uses driver relief vehicles, which are standard passenger cars, the facilities department uses work trucks, 35-foot and 40-foot line haul buses make up a majority of its fleet, 28-foot paratransit cutaway vehicles are used to operate the Go!Bus program, and a small electric car is used to travel around its campus. It was important to choose a washing system that would allow all of these vehicles to be cleaned.
Due to the varying sizes and heights of The Rapid’s vehicles, height could not play a role in activation of the bus wash. A set of optics acting as sensing devices helps to ensure that vehicles of any height could activate the wash system.
A reclaim system gathers water that was used to wash and rinse the bus as it moves through the wash. The water is collected, filtered and then stored for later reuse. Reclaimed water cannot be used in all parts of the bus wash; however, it works well in the early stages of bus cleaning, before the final rinse. It is a less expensive alternative to using new, fresh water. Water does not have to be reverse osmosis-generated water where the first stages of dirt removal are concerned. At this point, the wash should be removing a majority of the road dirt and grime in preparation for the scrubbing phase.
Water gets stale after it sits and is unfiltered for any length of time. To combat this, the reclaim system aerates the water by moving it through a filtering system, which also removes particles from the water. Filtering and movement are two items that help keep odors from reclaim water to a minimum.
A reclaim system helps tremendously as far as sustainability is concerned. The amount of water saved using a reclaim system is substantial. Approximately 200 gallons of water can be saved during every wash cycle by using a reclaim system with a hybrid or touchless wash. Washing 120 buses every night for 365 days per year yields a savings of around nine million gallons of fresh water every year. If the rest of the fleet is taken into consideration, this number will be greater.
The Rapid has made sustainability a top priority and as such, it was interested in keeping energy and water consumption as low as possible, yet still maintaining clean vehicles.