“So we sat with them and said, hey this is what we want to do. And we all sat down with their engineers and this is what we came up with. And I guess the biggest thing was that you had to accomplish all of these things before you can turn the key on or off, which is pretty important, and then that you couldn’t copy the key, because what good would the key be if you could copy it.”
As he explains, “Every driver that gets out of the bus has to take their key with them. That’s our policy. So if you’re driving and you go to the mall — a lot of times they will layover at the mall — and you want to use the restroom, what everybody else has to do is you have to shut your bus off and lock it and you can’t leave it running or anything like that. And then your bus is sitting out there and if someone knows what they are doing, they would turn this switch and start it up. And off they go in your bus.
“On our bus you can’t do that because they have to do the same thing, put it into neutral, foot on the service brake, apply the parking brake and while you’re holding the service brake only then can you turn the key and take it out.
“And once the key is out, you can’t move the bus.
The added security of being able to get off your bus without worrying about someone stealing it and going for a joyride is actually only one benefit of this new system. It also provides extra protection in the bus yard as well.
“The other thing it does, and this is a problem at every transit system, is you cannot park this bus without setting the parking brake. And if you do, you can’t take your key out,” says Baulsir.
“See the big problem with buses is, and every transit system in the country has this problem, as you pull up, you know, you’ve had a long day, you’re just thinking about going home. You pull up on the lot, shut the bus off and you never set the parking brake. And then the bus is just sitting there.
“And what usually happens is a lot of times you park buses back to back, and the bus behind it will pull up and just touch it a little or something, and off the bus goes rolling across the lot with nobody in it.”
Without the key in their hand, the operator can’t leave the bus, and without the parking brake locked, the operator can’t take out the key. This locks down the buses good and tight in the lot and whenever the drivers aren’t on them, something Baulsir can’t help but marvel at.
“It’s amazing that it does both of those things,” he says.
“So we can get out of the bus, leave it running — in the summer here it’s pretty warm. That’s probably an understatement. It’s not unusual for us to be up in the 100 degree weather.
“We leave the bus run, leave the air conditioner on and take the key out. You can’t move it. So we can let the passengers sit on the bus while the driver goes and uses the restroom or whatever the case may be.
“And nobody can move the bus, plus if you’re not trained, you don’t have one of our keys. And you can’t copy the key. All of the keys are numbered,” Baulsir says.
And for the last two years this innovation has worked for MTA without a hitch. So much so, that it has retrofitted its entire fleet with it now.
“You can’t even start the vans [without it], but you can get on our fixed-route buses, start them and run the A/C and all that stuff, but if you don’t have the key, you’re not going anywhere,” Baulsir says with a smile.
When you’re riding a bus, you can see the driver, but it’s easy to forget all of the people working for the agency whose job it is to make that bus go. These are the people who spend their days repairing and maintaining the fleet so its riders can get comfortable buses that run on-time. What innovations have been made to make their jobs easier?
For El Dorado this meant addressing the problem of corrosion on its buses. It changed all of their door frames to stainless steel and made Tectyl 121 the standard for their underbody coating. Tectyl 121 is a black-colored, wax and bitumen-based substance, which gives the underbody an abrasion-resilient film increasing its protection against corrosion.