These BRT buses are available in both 40- and 60-foot models, to allow for more passengers and all feature sleek styling with wheel covers giving that rail “feel” to the vehicle.
While bus manufacturers are looking to make their overall package more attractive to riders, what are the component manufacturers doing? What innovations are they making in their own products to make bus riding a more enjoyable experience overall?
American Seating knows that comfort is king. To that end, it conducted research to determine what was important to riders. It found out that comfort is a key factor in ridership and hand-in-hand with comfort is aesthetic appeal. It also concluded that the population is getting larger and growing older as time goes on, so space and accessibility are also factors modern riders look for.
From this research, American Seating developed its InSight seat design. This design includes increased sitting area, legroom and back height. Its slim form increases spaciousness between rows for more accessibility and its composite resin material minimizes passenger injury in a collision.
As far as comfort and accessibility goes, nothing beats the doors on Star Trek — you know, the ones that opened on their own when people came up to them. Door technology has advanced remarkably since the time when drivers had to open the door themselves, but now they are truly space-age. Vapor Bus has introduced a new Vapor CLASS sensing system that actually opens doors for riders when they come near.
The system uses ultrasonic transducers to sense the presence of a person near the door. When a person is in proximity of the door, a signal is sent to the door controls, which opens the doors and keeps them open as long as a presence is sensed. This makes exiting the bus easier and reduces dwell time, improving overall headways.
Even more important as a bus innovation than improved rider comfort is improved operator comfort. An operator who is at ease in his position has fewer distractions from the road and makes sure his passengers get to their destinations safely and on time.
For the major bus manufacturers, making bus drivers comfortable is about giving them the space they need to get their job done. Both DaimlerChrysler and New Flyer have increased the driver’s area in recent models. Most have increased the size of their windshields as well to brighten the dash and give the driver more visibility. The dashes have also been updated to move the switches within easier reach of the driver.
One interesting innovation the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has put into practice is a shift lock, which as MTA’s chief operating officer, Bob Baulsir, explains, changes the entire way an operator does his job.
“On transit buses there’s no key,” says Baulsir. “Basically once you are in the driver seat if you turn [the switch] to run and hit the starter it’s going to run.
“Now on every other bus, you get in, you turn it to run, hit the starter it runs, push it into drive and off you go.”
Baulsir explains that the fleet has been installed with a proprietary shift lock key developed in partnership with Gillig, “So you have to have the key in the ignition. [The bus] it will start and it will run, but you can’t move it. It locks out the transmission.”
Putting the bus into gear is a part of a process only the operators will know. “You have to have your foot on the service brake. You have to release the parking brake while your foot is on the service brake. And then you can turn the key to put it into gear so we know you are not going to put it into gear unless you are sitting in the seat, which is really what we’re looking for,” says Baulsir.
This partnership with Gillig created something that Baulsir describes as, “just absolutely unique to our business. I don’t know if anybody else has done this yet. I guess it would have been two to three years ago we went through this with Gillig and designed it. But Gillig designed it and it’s built into the multiplex system because it doesn’t have traditional wiring, it’s all computer logic.