Day 2 of specialty bus training was the NABI 40-LFW Generation II CNG, the first CNG buses in VIA’s fleet. Only four buses were ordered (#947-950) back in 2010, and 8 years later these things still have good power in them. For whatever reason these four buses have gone under some different types of modifications over the years.
Buses 949 and 950 received new white/silver destination signs on the front and sides, but the rear and block number signs would remain amber. They also have two different types of flashing amber lights on the rear of the bus, another weird test of some kind from VIA. They were active for a short time but have since been disabled and remain on the buses.
All four buses would get repainted into the new livery, but buses 947 and 948 would get repainted a couple of months later into the PRIMO livery and used on route 101.
Getting behind the wheel of this bus was a good preview to what I can expect when I drive the older diesel version next week. The driver’s area looks very similar to the older first generation model and is very spacious. The downside I have to this is since I’m kind of short, my foot has to extend a very tiny bit to get to the pedals, even with the seat pushed all the way forward. The other drawback of being short is not being able to reach the destination sign keypad. In order for most drivers to change their signs, they literally have to be stopped, remove their seatbelt, and stand up to press the buttons.
The other hindrance of this second generation bus is the blind spots. I don’t know why NABI designed the front the way they did, but it wasn’t a smart idea. Adding those side curved windows just moved the frame pillar more inward into the windshield area. Instead of one corner blocking my view on each side, there are now two obstructions, which means more rocking and rolling in the seat. The Nova’s kind of have a similar design like this, and I honestly don’t like it. And lastly, the left mirror. When these buses were first delivered, the mirror was at the bottom of the driver’s window. Shortly after entering service, maintenance changed the location to above the driver’s window due to frequent accidents. Instead of looking down to the left at my mirror, I have to tell myself to look up.
While those are the only complaints I have on these buses, I actually did enjoy the drive. The interior seems like it has a lot of room, and the AC can really blast cold air. Take off is smooth and fast, braking is good, the retarder isn’t as jerky as the New Flyer’s, and the suspension was decent. This bus also doesn’t rattle as much, even though it’s 8 years old. I had bus #949 today, and the steering was VERY stiff. I actually had to use both hands when turning the wheel, unlike any other bus in which you could turn the wheel with one hand. I’m thinking it’s only on that bus, as I tried turning the wheel on the other training bus (#948) and I could turn it easily with one hand. I’m guessing it had some work done recently.
Regardless, I enjoyed these buses. Aside from running on CNG, they really do remind me a lot of the first generation buses in the fleet. And while there are some faults, I can learn to work with them. After all, it’s all part of the job: adapting to changing situations, and in this case, different types of buses. The good thing is I can finally say I’ve driven a NABI bus now.