Motor Coach Industries (MCI), a U.S. subsidiary of NFI Group Inc., announced Eden Prairie, Minnesota’s SouthWest Transit is taking a major step forward in passenger accessibility with the order of two new MCI D45 CRT LE Commuter Coaches. It is the first U.S. transit agency to order the groundbreaking coaches for its fleet.
The D45 CRT LE’s breakthrough accessibility design features a second door with an automated ramp and a curb-level vestibule with seating for passengers, including those with wheelchairs and other mobility devices. The front entry features a roomy, well-lit, ergonomically designed spiral entryway leading to upper-level forward seating. The dual entry system has shown significant decreases in dwell times to match low-floor transit boarding times.
The Buy America-compliant new model recently passed its Altoona test, the U.S. Federal Transit Administration’s reliability-test for new bus models at the Altoona, Pennsylvania, test center. In 2020, MCI plans to begin production on a battery-electric version of the model.
Since its October 2017 industry debut, MCI’s next-generation Commuter Coach has toured the country in passenger tests, including one by SouthWest Transit during this summer’s Minnesota State Fair where SouthWest Transit provided over 100,000 rides.
Len Simich, CEO of SouthWest, said the company’s two new MCI D45 CRT LE coaches allow for better vehicle scheduling and a cost-savings by providing the right vehicle for both the load demand and accessibility needs. “On our express city-to-suburban routes, we currently either have to deploy the lift on our current fleet of commuter coaches, which requires additional time, or deploy a 40-foot low-floor vehicle that doesn’t always match well with the passenger loads that bus will experience during the course of the trips it makes during the peak hours,” he explained.
Simich also said that during SouthWest’s test of the MCI D45 CRT LE, passengers with mobility challenges highly favored the new vestibule design, which was actually created with the help of accessibility user groups. “It’s an exclusive design that allows passengers with mobility devices ease of entry and secure designated seating,” he said. “From what these passengers have told us, the D45 CRT LE creates a comfort level they appreciate.”
SouthWest’s new D45 CRT LE coaches will come with Kiel seating for 52 passengers, featuring cup holders and arm rests along with power outlets, Wi-Fi connectivity and bike racks. MCI anticipates that delivery will take place by the end of May 2019.