Management & Operations

BusCon focuses on innovation

Posted on December 6, 2006

A slew of new buses and related products and services made their debut at BusCon 2006, held at the Navy Pier in Chicago from Oct. 23 to 25. A record crowd of approximately 2,500 attendees and exhibitors gathered for the 12th annual event.

Attendees were treated to a display of new offerings from companies such as ABC Companies, Ameritrans, Bitzer International, Cobus Industries, Cummins, Dallas Smith Corp., IC Corporation, Rexhall Industries, Telargo and Transpec Worldwide.

Sponsored by Bobit Business Media and METRO Magazine, the annual bus expo, the industry’s largest, featured more than 50 bus and chassis on the show floor, with more than 120 exhibitors overall.

IC Corporation provided attendees with the opportunity to appraise firsthand its new line of commercial buses. The vehicles were not only available for viewing on the show floor, but they were also made available during the company’s drive-and-ride event. Groups of attendees were shuttled to the parking lot of nearby Soldier Field, where they were able to test-drive IC’s new array of buses.

The new bus line includes a low-floor bus (LC Series) built specifically for easy accessibility, a medium-duty bus (HC Series), a front-engine transit bus model (FC Series) and a rear-engine transit bus model (RC Series).

Of particular interest to the drive-and-ride crowd was the new hybrid diesel-electric bus, manufactured in conjunction with Enova Corp. in Torrance, Calif. A hybrid diesel-electric school bus, destined for a school district in New York, was also available for test laps on the drive-and-ride course.

One of the most unusual buses on the show floor was the Cobus 3000, a 10-foot-wide, 45-foot-long specialty bus with a capacity of 110 passengers. The vehicle, manufactured by Cobus Industries in Wiesbaden, Germany, is used for short shuttle runs, mainly at airports and special-interest venues. Most of the interior space is reserved for standees, much like automated people movers.

Adding to the international flavor of the proceedings was a line of buses from Rexhall Industries. These vehicles currently have strong market penetration in China, where they are manufactured by FAW Bus and Coach, and in other Asian countries. According to a Rexhall sales representative, the cost of these vehicles is significantly lower than their U.S. counterparts.

Also debuting at BusCon was the 2007 Friendly Bus by Dallas Smith Corp. This low-floor cutaway bus is built on a Ford F-450 chassis and has a step-in floor height of eight inches. The vehicle can be used for shuttle service or for paratransit operations.

In addition to diverse offerings on the product side, this year’s BusCon featured an educational program that included three tracks and a separate conference for university transit.

The highlight of the educational program was an inspiring keynote address by John Amatt, an international adventurer who helped the first Canadian team conquer Mount Everest in the 1980s. Amatt told the audience that people need to embrace change and risk, much the same way an adventurer takes on a new challenge.

“Adventure is an attitude that we must apply to the day-to-day obstacles of life — facing new challenges, seizing new opportunities, testing our resources against the unknown and, in the process, discovering our own unique potential,” Amatt said.

The program also included panel sessions on topics such as minimizing fuel costs, driver recruitment and retention, accident investigation, air conditioning systems, multiplexing, 2007 emissions standards, hybrid engines and use of biodiesel fuel.

More detailed coverage of the educational program and the trade show will appear in the Bus Management Supplement of the January 2007 issue of METRO Magazine.

In 2007, BusCon will again be held in Chicago at Navy Pier. The show is scheduled Oct. 1 to 3. For more information, visit www.busconexpo.com.

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