Training is slowly winding down now. Earlier this week was my last tests for the training program, and I passed all of them with flying colors! All that’s left now is specialty bus training, which is just a quick 4 hour training on the buses I haven’t been trained on yet. The main focus during training were the Nova’s and the diesel New Flyers, since those make up a majority of the fleet.
Today was the first day and it was with the New Flyer Express Hybrids (DE40LFR). Riding these as a passenger has always been a pleasant experience. Interior LED lights, reclining plush seats, quiet ride, and a more modern sleek look with the frameless windows and the restyle front and back. When VIA first received these 30 buses back in mid-2010, I honestly didn’t like the way they looked with the roof “fins” hiding the batteries on the roof. But over time it slowly grew on me, and now this is my favorite New Flyer bus in the fleet (Xcelsior being a very close second).
Driving these beasts is a whole different story. I was lucky enough today to be the first person to drive bus 404 on the highway from the training course to downtown. Let’s just say that I instantly fell in love and never wanted to get out of the seat. My classmates even asked how I felt about it, and my response was “Can I marry this bus?”
Acceleration is quick on this bus. As with the diesel New Flyer’s, once you take your foot off the brake pedal the bus immediately starts moving quickly. But with the hybrids, take off is even quicker because at low speeds, the bus is being powered by electricity stored in the batteries. This also means that this bus can get up to highway speeds faster than I ever thought was possible for a bus. And the steering was amazing, tight and smooth. It was very responsive with the littlest movement needed to turn the bus.
Braking was even better because I never really had to do anything. Once your foot is removed from the accelerator pedal, the retarder kicks in and immediately starts slowing the bus down rapidly. It does this very smoothly and not in a jerky motion like on the diesels. Coming to a bus stop or red light I would wait almost to the last-minute, remove my foot from the gas pedal, and the bus would slow down on its own. Then I would just press the brake pedal to “officially” stop the bus altogether. Simple!
I know this bus is turning 8 years old this year, but it still feels pretty close to new. Bus 404 started her life on express service, but was later painted into the PRIMO scheme and used on route 100 during off-peak service, then moved to route 101 which uses 40′ buses. A couple of months ago it was repainted into the new livery and returned to express service. And man does that new livery look sharp on this bus!!! Overall I’m pleased with this bus and hope to drive it a lot in the future. Even more good new is that I will also be trained on the diesel NABI’s, a dream come true. Stay tuned for that next week.