A group meeting in Toronto representing half to three-quarters of the transit bus purchasing power in North America has approved common performance goals in transit bus specs.
The concerns in Toronto are these: Corrosion has been the cause of extensive structural damage in the bus fleet; system failures have pushed new buses to the sidelines for weeks at a time; and the cost of brake maintenance on new vehicles has increased by more than 1,000%.
"Reliability, design and skyrocketing maintenance costs have been growing concerns, not only for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), but also for transit properties across the continent," said outgoing TTC Chief General Manager David Gunn.
Gunn took a leading role in trying to address those concerns by inviting transit authorities from across North America to a Bus Design Conference last fall. The result was a set of general specifications, which 15 of the 18 properties invited recently approved. The Canadian Urban Transit Association is considering the proposal.
"The group that attended represented between 50 and 75% of the buying power of buses in North America," said TTC's Vehicle Engineering Manager Bill Brown.
"We have agreed to include the key points in the specifications in all future tender documents. That gives a little muscle when we're trying to get suppliers to give us a better product."
Here are the four basic criteria identified for building a better bus:
Durability: Transit properties need a bus that will last as long as the manufacturer's guarantee without any maintenance (12 years by New York City standards). The structure must be inherently corrosion resistant.
Affordability: Properties need to be able to afford operating and maintaining a bus throughout its design life (minimum of 12 years).
Accessibility: Low floor buses must have a maximum capacity similar to conventional 40-foot vehicles (80 passengers are acceptable with room for wheelchairs).
Customer necessity: Passengers demand environmentally friendly, quiet, comfortable, reliable and safe transportation.
A geographical cross-section of the transit properties has been selected to meet with original equipment manufacturers in Toronto this spring. They include: Toronto, New York, Montreal, Edmonton, Albany and GO Transit (Greater Toronto Area).
"We intend to convey the discussions we had last October to the bus manufacturers so they can consider what these new specifications will force on them as far as new product-and possibly new bus design," said Brown.
New bus development and marketplace reform are the subjects of a new series on bus design, which begins in METRO's May 1999 issue, available May 1st.