I was dreading this day from the very beginning. Every driver I’ve spoken to about the trolley say they like the route, but not the vehicle. Notice I vehicle and not bus, as I do not even consider this a bus. In my honest opinion, this is just a rolling junkyard waiting to fall apart at the next pothole.
A little history with VIA’s trolleys. Manufactured by Optima back in 2005, these 30-foot “trolleys” run on propane and were delivered red in color. A couple of years ago a new route was created, called “The E.” It stood for Entertainment, as the route ran Tuesday to Saturday nights from 6 PM to midnight and was free. This new “special” route used trolleys that were repainted orange, had special branding, and even had LED strip lights added to the exterior canopy. While the route didn’t last long, the buses remained in their bright orange color. In fact, the remaining red trolleys would be painted into orange when VIVA service began back in summer 2016.
These so-called buses have been very troublesome during their time at VIA, especially the past couple of years. The wheelchair lifts are known to break down very frequently. I experienced this today, as the trolley we had for training didn’t have a working lift. We had to use a second bus and hope that its lift worked. It didn’t on the first try, but luckily it decided to work on the second try. I also found out that these buses once had the kneeling feature, but has since been disabled because they would kneel but not raise back up.
Driving this thing is WAY different from a regular transit bus. We were actually told to treat this as your regular car when it came to making turns. Makes sense now that I think about it because the wheels are kind of in front of you, like a car. It was just weird hearing that sentence in training this afternoon. I will admit that I didn’t have problems turning today.
I did have a lot of other problems. The front “windshield” has way to many blind spots. Instead of the middle pillar in the windshield, it has two. You also have a limited viewing area in front of the bus. The windshield wipers are a joke too, as when turned on it makes a LOUD swishing sound constantly. The driver’s area is super cramped. The turn signals on the floor don’t have enough room to fit your foot between them. It could fit a child’s foot under the age of 10 easily, but not a grown adult. Did I mention it gets hot up there? Today’s weather was sunny and in the low-70’s. Even with the AC running full blast I was still hot, and I had a fan turned on facing me. You are sitting on top of the engine (which is very loud by the way). Hope you didn’t pack any chocolate in your lunch bag as it would have melted.
The steering on this thing was okay, but the steering wheel itself was weird. Imagine sitting in your car, steering wheel straight in front of you. On the trolley, the wheel is about 6 inches to the left. I’m steering this thing with off-centered arms. As far as mirrors go, you barely use them except to check for traffic. To make a service stop, I have to look at a mirror at the front exterior and align the cattle guard over the curb. WTF???
Have I talked about suspension yet? It’d be easier to say that these buses don’t have a suspension, as you feel even the tiniest of bumps. My instructor today joked you can run over a pebble and feel it in your bones, and she was right. We are instructed to operate these buses at 20 MPH, and no faster. This helps reduce the jostling and sliding in the seats.
Overall, I knew I wouldn’t like the trolleys. Don’t get me wrong, they look cool looking on the outside, but operating them as a bus is a joke. I honestly can’t find one positive thing about this bus. The only positive note is that they are 13 years old, so they should be phased out soon (I hope). If I ever get this route while working the extra board, I’m asking for a 40 foot bus or going home for the day. I’d rather take a work failure than drive this junk-heap.