After more than six months in operation, a circulator service managed by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is getting high marks. “The D.C. Circulator service is picking up new riders every month,” said Jack Requa, chief operating officer of WMATA’s bus service. “It’s doing fine.”
The contract for the circulator service is managed by WMATA for the District of Columbia and its Business Improvement District in the downtown area.
The transit buses are distinctively colored for easy identification and for strong brand appeal. “The intent was to attract new riders with a colorful paint scheme and easy access with a full low-floor bus,” Requa said.
The service was launched with two routes last July using a fleet of 29 Van Hool A330s that feature three service doors, panoramic windows, colorful destination signs and a quiet ride.
WMATA purchased the 40-foot Van Hools from AC Transit in Oakland, Calif. Requa said AC Transit officials put the 29 buses up for sale before putting them into operation because of a funding shortfall.
Twenty-four of the buses were sitting unused in Oakland, while five were still at Van Hool’s facility in Belgium.
Because they were designed for Oakland’s mild climate, all of the vehicles needed to be retrofitted with air conditioning and upgraded heating systems. The 24 buses in Oakland were driven to ABC Companies’ facility in Faribault, Minn., for the heating and cooling equipment installation. The other five were upgraded at Van Hool’s facility in Belgium.
Requa said WMATA procured the buses from AC Transit for a couple of reasons. The buses were already built, cutting down on procurement time, and the price was good. “We got their [AC Transit’s] price,” he said, explaining that the original deal was consummated two years ago, when the dollar was faring better against the Euro. “It was considerably cheaper that way than creating a new order,” Requa said, adding that each bus cost in the low $400,000s.