It has been a long month since graduation from the driver training program at VIA. So far it has been a blast, driving different types of buses and routes every day. Luckily for me everything has been running smoothly. The only exciting things that have happened are 2 bus breakdowns, one for loss of air and another for suspension issues.
It’s been a pretty good week doing training on the specialty buses in the fleet. I was pretty much excited to train on every bus so far (with the exception of the trolley), but only one bus remained in the fleet: the NABI 60-BRT CNG.
I honestly never thought this day would come. When I started training back in early November, VIA was in the process of retiring the entire NABI fleet. They would stop the process later that same month, but have at least 20-30 buses in storage at the Madla Transit Center. The remaining 10 or so would sometimes enter service. As training progressed, all of my instructors made it seem like I would never get to train on the NABI’s at all. Low and behold today’s greatest achievement, I actually got trained to drive this bus!
Remember a couple of blogs ago when I talked about the New Flyer hybrids, and I mentioned I “wanted to marry them?” Scratch that as the hybrids moved to second place. Xcelsior is now at the top of the list as favorite bus to drive. These buses are the Cadillac of all buses, and I really didn’t want to leave the seat this time. Luckily I was first to drive this morning and got stuck in rush hour traffic. Talk about a good 45 minutes in the seat!
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 said 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.
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.
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.
So I’ve overheard from several different drivers that VIA has terminated the contract with Nova Bus. I say good riddance because in my opinion they are nothing but lemons. But I’ll save all my ranting about Nova’s terrible work for another blog post. In this post, I will be discussing what I think will fill in the gap of the remaining 230 buses VIA was supposed to get from Nova. Continue reading “Are Xcelsior’s the Future of VIA?”
So it’s been a while since I’ve done a post on the graveyard status. Not much has changed since mid-November. To my knowledge, the last 2 buses to be retired were 871 and 916 on November 12, 2017. I remember seeing 871 a couple days before broken down on San Pedro Ave due to some sort of fluid leak. I didn’t know that was all it would take to be eligible for retirement.
Since then the retirement process seems to have halted. There are 48 NABI’s that have not been retired, however 34 of them were placed into storage at the Madla Transit Center parking lot. The remaining 14 would be used for regular daily bus service. Of all the buses sitting in the graveyard, 151 were put up for auction and purchased. This includes all 61 of the 2003 New Flyers, and about half of the NABI’s.
Above is a photo taken on 1/14/18. A majority of the buses have been moved around and painted with either green dots or red lines on the engine bay. Some buses are even parked outside the fence along the street awaiting pickup.
At the rate these buses are disappearing, it seems like by the end of this month the buses sold at auction will be gone forever. As for the rest of the NABI’s that were not put up for auction, there’s no telling when they will go as well. The same could be said for the remaining NABI’s not yet placed into retirement.
For the past 3 years, I was preparing myself for the retirement of the 1999-2001 NABI fleet. I was hoping that the replacements would be New Flyer Xcelsiors, however I was very disappointed when Nova Bus won the order. Fast forward to October 2017 when the remaining 1999 NABI’s were finally retired, and VIA was starting to work on the rest of the fleet. Around mid-October to November the retirement process stopped for some odd reason. It was around the same time that 80% of the remaining active NABI fleet was placed into storage in a parking lot at the Madla Transit Center.
Only 14 NABI’s would remain in active service: 835, 850, 864, 901, 903, 904, 912, 913, 921, 924, 937, 941, 942, and 943. The other 34 buses would just continue to sit and collect dust, awaiting their inevitable fate. Well the spare parking lot these buses were sitting in was needed for special event service for New Year’s. So of course the buses had to be moved somewhere.
They didn’t go far, as they were placed next door into the training course. Luckily there were no classes when this happened. Tuesday resumed class for me, and we were doing DPS prep. The buses had been moved back into the parking lot, however I noticed something very shocking. Half of the buses were gone!
First thing that goes through my mind is “where did they go?” When returning to the garage later that afternoon I saw a few of the buses sitting in the yard. So my next thought was “they are finally going to get prepped for retirement.”
Well today (Wednesday 1/3/18), the NABI’s that were sitting at Madla were back in revenue service. This was a compete shock to me as I was not expecting this outcome at all. I also took note that a majority of the New Flyer D40LF’s were out on the road as well. There were quite a few Nova’s sitting in the yard.
It’s too early for me to jump to any conclusions, but I wonder if this might have anything to do with the way the Nova’s are turning out: not well. I’ll just have to wait and see what happens. But for now, it looks like the NABI’s may remain in service for a little while longer.