What is it to be innovative when designing a new transit vehicle? Do you design a new vehicle from scratch? Or do you make changes to your existing product line to take into account new innovations in design?
You can expect the latest models in transit bus design to show up for the bus display at APTA’s Bus & Paratransit Conference. But what exactly is new about these vehicles? How different are they from previous models? And what exactly has been done to make riders more comfortable, because a rider who is comfortable and enjoys their experience is one that will come back for more.
Let There Be Light
The style of a bus is largely dictated by the want of an agency and the needs of its ridership. Still, there are certain factors that seem to be universal across all buses. Two of these factors include noise and lighting. A quieter, brighter bus is more appealing to riders and this can mean making changes to windows.
DaimlerChrysler weighed into this year’s bus market with a complete redesign of its familiar Orion VIII bus. While it has just been on the streets since 2002, five years can be a long time in the transit industry. As part of this streamlining of the Orion VII model, DaimlerChrysler made changes to its windows to enhance their usefulness. The windshield was changed to a two-piece symmetrical design set at a common angle, and the passenger windows were updated with continuous side glass.
New Flyer likewise has added continuous side windows and eliminated visible fasteners in its buses to enhance lighting and reduce interior noise. More windows were the solution for ABC, who added rear windows to its vehicles to increase the lighting and give the vehicle more of an openness feeling.
For North American Bus Industries — now a combination of NABI, Blue Bird and Optima brands — the idea of making its buses lighter and quieter was something that had to be tackled differently for each brand. The Blue Bird buses are outfitted with solid glass windows with optional sliders to present better visibility. Mounting the A/C unit on its roof allowed the Optima Opus bus to include large rear and side windows for greater visibility for its passengers. The Opus also has a one-piece windshield, increasing safety as it accommodates larger wipers, giving more than 25 percent more visibility due to their reach.
El Dorado took a different take with the windows in its buses, looking to block out light by making GL-20 glass standard on all of its buses. GL-20 glass is a tinted glass, which actually absorbs heat by blocking the sun’s energy, making the bus cooler overall. It also reduces reflected glare, so it’s easier for riders to see inside the bus. And due to its ability to block out the sun’s radiation, it protects bus interiors from discoloration and fading.
BRT — Bus “Rail” Transit
Just take a look at the latest round of funding grants from the FTA and you can see that bus rapid transit (BRT) is one of the quickest growing sectors in the transit industry. Due to the affordability of its implementation and the adaptability of its vehicles, BRT is becoming a favored way of enhancing transit systems across the country.
But the latest advances in BRT technology harkens the idea of bus rapid transit back to the days of the rubber-tired trolley with the new BRT vehicles looking more and more like light rail vehicles.
As with the Lane Transit District (LTD) in Mass Transit’s July/August cover story, agencies like LTD in Springfield, Ore., and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority are already putting these cutting-edge vehicles into operation and finding tremendous success with them.
Both New Flyer and NABI are offering the light rail-styled BRT vehicles. The greatest change on these vehicles is the number of doors. These vehicles sport up to five doors, three curbside and two streetside. These extra doors allows riders to board from both the vehicle’s right- and left-side, making entering and exiting the bus much quicker and easier — key elements in a bus rapid transit system.