Specialty Bus Training Day 2: NABI CNG

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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.

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Specialty Bus Training Day 1: Hybrids

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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.

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Are Xcelsior’s the Future of VIA?

421 Nova LFS (1).JPGSo 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?”

Graveyard Update

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.

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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.

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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.

Return of the NABI’s????

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.

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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.

MAX_0025_Edit.JPGThey 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.

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Farewell to 1998

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The end of the 1998 era is here for Capital Metro.  The last 3 New Flyer D35LF’s should be retired as of January 1, 2018.  Buses 7417, 7424, and 7451 gave out almost 20 years of service to the city of Austin.  Despite being so old, they ran as if they were only a couple of years old.  I’m surprised that a Detroit Diesel S50 could have so much power when VIA’s DD S50’s from 2003 didn’t last long.

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Stock photo from the old New Flyer website.

I remember when I first arrived to Austin in late 2008 and came across these beauties.  They were super fun to ride and the hum of that engine could put anyone to sleep, but why would you want to sleep anyways?  After the D30LF’s were retired, this was all I had left to ride.  So for the past 2 years I would make a monthly trip to document the remaining fleet, as they were slowly being phased out.

What was once a fleet of 70 buses dwindled down to about 12-14 on 2016.  Then by around spring/summer 2017-ish, it was down to the last 3.  My monthly trips then turned into a manhunt of sorts.  I would stake out somewhere and just hope for a great catch.  Sometimes I got lucky, while most times my luck ran out.  Regardless, I’m glad I got to experience such an awesome bus for as long as I could.  I’m just astonished that these 3 buses lasted way longer than anything VIA ever kept in service, including the remaining 14 NABI’s still in service now and the old RTS fleet.

So I say Congrats Capital Metro, for keeping these lovely buses out on the road for so long.  Thanks for the fun rides and memories.

 

New PRIMO Route Under Construction

So things have been super busy with me the past few weeks.  Driver training is going well so far, and there is a lot more to come before the year is over.  But that’s not to say that I didn’t have any free time to do some bus drawings.

I had extra free time during a lunch break to just drive around and I came across a realization that construction of the next bus rapid transit corridor has began.  PRIMO route 120 is scheduled to begin service sometime in late 2018 or early 2019.  Construction right now is limited to reconstructing the sidewalk to fit new larger shelters and constructing bus pads in the street.

 

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Rendering of new PRIMO stations from www.viasmartmove.com.

 

26 new stations are being constructed along the Zarzamora corridor.  Features are to include lighted shelters with seating, free 4G LTE WiFi, security cameras, and a digital information screen with next-bus arrival information.  So that got me to thinking what vehicles are going to be used on this new route.  Obviously the current fleet VIA has of NABI’s and XN40’s will be used, but there needs to be vehicle expansion.

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VIA would need to purchase new articulated buses.  And since Nova doesn’t have an option for articulated CNG buses, the only option on the market would be New Flyer’s XN60.  This bus would be perfect for the Military Drive BRT, but it won’t work on Zarzamora due to one railroad crossing that has a very steep grade.  Even 40-foot buses have been known to get stuck at this crossing.  So what other options are available?

Nova PRIMO

Above is a rendering of the new Nova LFS repainted into the PRIMO livery.  This option would be suitable for VIA since they are switching to an all CNG fleet, and they chose Nova for 500 buses.  The other option would be to purchase more Xcelsiors, but that doesn’t seem likely.  Right now, it’s too hard to tell what VIA will choose the run down this new corridor.

And because I was already repainting bus drawings, I went ahead and did some extra credit.  I painted a Gillig CNG bus into the new VIA livery just to see what it would’ve looked like.

VIA Gillig

I would hope that VIA would’ve gotten the regular styling, but who knows for sure.  Gillig would’ve never gotten the contract based on the fact that they couldn’t handle the high production of buses.  Honestly I would take Gillig over Nova Bus any day.