Management & Operations

Bus Takes Pages from Rail Playbook at the APTA Bus Conference

Posted on May 30, 2000

Bus technology that emulated railcar concepts got the most significant attention at the recently held American Public Transportation Association’s Bus & Paratransit Conference in Houston, Tex. In the conference sessions, several showcased and discussed bus rapid transit (BRT) ideas both abroad and in the U.S. BRT is a service concept that uses fixed, dedicated guideways, frequent service and upgraded stops and civil works, ideally coordinated with local land-use planning. The concept has been employed successfully in Ottawa, Ontario and Curitiba, Brazil, with far less cost than a light rail line. However, in some places like Ottawa, the local transit agency is now examining LRT to boost ridership further. The FTA is looking to leverage research and other federal programs with transit agencies and the private sector in ways that help get BRT off the ground, FTA officials told METRO. “What’s important is that these be viewed as a total system,” said John Marino, head of North American marketing for Irisbus, a new company formed from the bus operations of Renault and Iveco. He used as an example the installation of Civis in Rouen and Lyon, France. Civis his company’s dual-mode guided articulated vehicle; ALSTOM supplied the propulsion and Siemens Matra, both headquartered in France, supplied the optical guidance system. Meanwhile, the accompanying product trade show was also highlighted by rail-like concepts. Chance introduced its new Opus low-floor under-30-foot bus. The frame, designed by Irish builder Walter Alexander, is bolted aluminum and built so that the lower half can be unbolted in sections, even when a collision causes structural damage. Its large windows and bright interior “remind people of railcars when they see it,” says Chance vice president of new product development Fred Gilliam. The first Opus prototype was on display at the APTA conference. A test article will be bound for Altoona soon, Gilliam added. Also, North American Bus Industries, Inc. (NABI) announced the availability of its new Model 30-LFN MidiBus at the APTA meeting. The new lightweight bus, which is made of stainless steel and aluminum, is available with a highly efficient powertrain combination using a Cummins ISB-185 engine and Allison Series 2000 5-speed electronic transmission in a traditional T-drive configuration. It is available with one or two doors, seating up to 32 passengers and is ADA compliant with a ramp in the front or rear door. With the axle forward design at the front, maneuverability of wheelchairs at the front door is unusually easy and the tie-down locations are readily accessible. In addition to the air-ride suspension, this model boasts all-wheel air operated disc brakes as standard equipment. Rail concepts also ventured into passenger information systems. NextBus Inc., a new company based out of the San Francisco area, showed off its system of the same name. It’s designed to tell passengers waiting at stations the arrival of the next several buses due at that stop in real time. Although the idea is not new, it hasn’t been commercialized in the U.S., said Bruce Thomas, head of marketing for NextBus. Currently, the NextBus system is being tested on a San Francisco Muni line, he added.

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