The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) found an interesting way to deal with the rapidly growing traffic congestion along the Las Vegas strip — double up.
No, the RTC didn’t simply increase the number of buses that carry passengers along the strip; they purchased 50 Enviro500 double-decker buses from Alexander Dennis Inc. (ADI), the U.S. division of British-based bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis Ltd.
The double-deckers began operation in late October as the newly launched service called “The Deuce.” This service replaces the 21 Citizens Area Transit and 10 Metropolitan Area Express lines currently carrying up to 37,000 people a day along one of the busiest corridors in the U.S.
The launch made RTC the first agency in the U.S. and only the second in North America, besides BC Transit in Victoria, British Columbia, to use double-decker buses in a fixed-route public transit capacity.
“What we really want to do is make public transit more than just a utilitarian service; we want to make it a fun experience,” says Ingrid Reisman, RTC’s communications manager.
A shorter, tall bus
Prior to shipping its buses to Las Vegas, ADI, which supplied BC Transit with a different double-decker model, decided to build a redesigned version that would better fit the American market and infrastructure.
The first step was to reduce the height of the bus, since, unlike the U.K. and Hong Kong, the U.S. does not build their structures to accommodate double-deckers. Following these alterations, ADI had its engine manufacturer build an engine that would comply with the latest EPA emission standards. In addition, the company began using North American original equipment exclusively, with the idea of meeting Buy America requirements.
Once the revamped bus was completed and Altoona tested, ADI enlisted Thermo King Corp. (TKC) to help the Enviro500 pass Las Vegas’ stringent pull-down requirements. To do this, TKC created what they say is the largest cooling system ever built for a transit application in North America.
The cooling system worked so well, says Reisman, that during a service preview with elected officials, the group needed to disembark after 20 minutes to warm up again. “It was 117 degrees in the middle of July that day,” she says.
Costing the RTC approximately $550,000 per bus, the completed custom-built Enviro500 measures 40 feet long, by 14 feet high, and holds an estimated 100 passengers — nearly double the capacity of a normal 40-foot bus. It features a Cummins ISM 330 bhp engine, Voith or ZF transmissions, Dana axles, an ergonomically-designed driver’s area that includes adjustable seating, a fully adjustable tilt and telescope steering wheel and a CCTV monitoring system with cab-mounted monitor.
Future or fad?
So, are double-decker buses the wave of the future?
“Like all things in life I think it’s a matter of timing,” says ADI VP Stephen Walsh. “There were times when transit companies had a more conservative approach toward transportation solutions, but what they are looking for now is something innovative that will attract more riders.”
Walsh says there has been significant interest from agencies wanting to use ADI’s double-deckers in either transit or inter-urban configurations, and that his company has recently shipped some of its new Enviro500s to expand BC Transit’s fleet.
Meanwhile, the RTC’s Reisman refused to speculate as to whether she felt The Deuce would increase ridership, but pointed out that its affordability ($2 one way and $5 for a 24-hour all-access pass) and increased capacity could make the double-decker just right for her agency.
“It made sense for us to go with a double-decker instead of an articulated bus because we can carry more people in two-thirds the amount of space,” she says. “We have absolutely discussed the possibility of purchasing more double-deckers if this works out.”