Happy New Year everyone! 2018 was very interesting for me as a bus operator, and I’m sure 2019 will bring even more exciting changes. And right off the bat are the January 7 service changes, which include a new PRIMO route.
Every transit system has that one bus route that everyone hates for whatever reason. It’s busy, traffic sucks, too many wheelchairs, trains, etc. Route 520 Zarzamora is that route for VIA. I’ve driven it a few times and never once have I liked it. It’s hard to maintain the schedule so you’re always late, and if you get stuck behind a train, it’s game over.
So to help alleviate these problems VIA is eliminating the 520 and replacing it with route 103 PRIMO. This route will run from the Madla Transit Center on the south side to the Crossroads Park & Ride on the north side. Frequency is expected to be every 12 minutes during the weekday from 6am to 6pm, with 15 minute frequency during weekends. Just like the 100, service hours are from 4am to 1am every day.
Vehicles to be used are the new Nova’s (fleet range 970-987) and the other baby PRIMO buses used on the 101 (which is being downgraded in service to a local route). Those buses are 419-420 (2016 New Flyer XN40) and 947, 948, and 950 (2010 NABI 40-LFW CNG Gen II). There is uncertainty as to whether the NABI articulated buses will be used. There is a steep railroad crossing that might hinder the operation of these buses.
I’ve heard mixed stories on the testing of these buses on the route. Some say the bus passed through without incident, while others say the bus got stuck. I’ve had a chance to look at the paddles for this route, and it has the same pull-in routes to garage as the 100 does. VIA has designated routes for which the articulated buses can travel down and what areas to avoid. It may be possible to see an articulated bus on this route. Personally I don’t think the route needs it. Zarzamora street can get pretty narrow in certain spots and having a bus that big is asking for trouble.
Let’s talk about the “stations.” Notice the quotation marks I used. Compared to the 100 these aren’t really stations, just fancier bus shelters. The stations on the 100 are level with the bus (no stepping up or down) and are the length of the bus. The “stations” for the 103 are just bus stops with PRIMO branding (see slide show below).
I have no idea as to why VIA did the stops this way. Honestly I think level boarding would have been better, but from a money perspective I get that it’s cheaper to just redo the sidewalk and add a shelter. As for the stop locations: anywhere another route crosses the 103. So all of the other stops are being eliminated. Sure it means faster service but it also means a lot more walking for people, which will lead to A LOT of complaints the first few weeks of service.
So that’s a look to the new 103 starting Monday. The May service changes should bring another PRIMO route, the 102 Military Drive. Construction of the stops is still underway, as well as the new Brooks Transit Center that will be the end of the line on the east end. Rumors are going around about new articulated buses being used on this route, however it’s still too early to tell. We shall see once we get closer to the summer.