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.

Graveyard/NABI Update

This past Sunday was a milestone… The remaining 1999 NABI’s were officially retired form service.

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Bus #801 was the last bus in the series (730-809) to be “laid to rest” so to speak [pictured above].  I am quite surprised that these buses lasted for 18 long years.  I’ve read articles online where other transit agencies with NABI’s from the same year have been retired long ago, however a handful do remain in service.  Miami-Dade Transit is also retiring their 1999 buses this year, and they were built after VIA had received theirs.

Honestly VIA does a great job maintaining their buses.  The last bus series to run for 18 years were the 1992 TMC RTS #633-662.  Even though several buses were retired early, most made it to 2010 when VIA received the hybrid fleet.  Those things were constantly breaking down, some on a daily basis.

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Now that the 1999’s are gone, next is the 2000 fleet (810-889).  Looking at the photo above you can see buses 815, 816, 818, 810, 811, and 824 which were added recently.  The only bus to not be retired (yet) up to 824 is bus #812.  However I have a suspicion that I saw it at the VIA paint shop getting painted white, which means the end of the road for it.

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Another interesting note is the vacant lot you can see on the left of the photo.  The previous owner moved out 2 weeks ago.  Since my visit last week, the lot has been cleared of buildings, debris, and the fence has also been removed.  This can only mean that VIA is now leasing this lot to add more buses, since I doubt they could fit the remaining NABI’s in the remaining lot on the right.  I’ll find out when I visit the graveyard this Sunday for my weekly update.

Goodbye Hopeless Opus!!!

 

About once a month I like to visit the capitol city of Austin, TX and bus fan there.  I have been doing this for about 2 years now, and within the past year my focus has been finding the remaining 1998 D35LF’s still in service.  It’s hard to imagine something running for that long!

But lets shift the topic to Capital Metro’s 2005 Optima Opus fleet 6001-6030.

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When first introduced I’m sure these seemed like cool buses to operate.  That was just not the case.  Plagued with so many problems, these would be the bane of existence to CMTA for the next 12 years.  I’ve had 2 drivers tell me stories of their problems, from small compressors not being powerful enough, to certain buses being in the maintenance shop 24/7.  Can you believe of a bus blew out smoke from the exhaust? I didn’t believe it until I witnessed it myself, #6005.  Even sitting at idle parked you could clearly see smoke coming from the exhaust like a chimney.  Ironically, that was the last bus to be retired from service in Mid-October.

I remember first riding the Opus bus when I first visited Austin back in 2009.  I took a trip on the 142 Metric Flyer from downtown to North Lamar Transit Center.  Back then I thought it was kind of cool.  It had decent A/C (despite being a chilly November) and a rear window, something I never experienced on a bus back then.  I don’t quite remember the ride quality as I was taking in the sites of a brand new city.  All I know is that the ride was too short but it was cool.  At least I can say I rode it.

I say good riddance, you shall NOT be missed.  I’ve taken a few rides on them in these later years and they were not pleasant.  The engine was super loud, the thing moved too slow, and the suspension was the worst.  If you hit a bump, you would definitely feel it in your bones.  To me, it seemed like these buses were not maintained properly (probably true).  Then again, why purchase a light-duty bus and put it on heavy-duty service?

One thing is for sure, everyone can agree that these buses were horrible.  Floptima’s.  The hopeless opus.  Driving junkyard.  Crap.  Whatever you called them, they are finally gone and you can breath a sigh of relief.

Graveyard Visit 10/16/17

What a difference a week can make.  Since my last graveyard post, 18 more NABI’s were retired.  These include 756, 758, 761, 786, 849, 775, 807, 790, 784, 902, 773, 799, 794, 797, 906, 767, 747, and 862.

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All of these buses were added to the northwest lot and overflowed into the “alley” that leads to said lot.  I want to say that maybe 5 more buses can fit into this alley.  No other buses have been added to the main yard.  One thing to note is the tenant to the left (the empty lot) has moved out within the last week.  There could be potential here for VIA to lease out this lot as well and continue to add more buses.  I don’t think they want to add anything more to the main lot so that they can gain access to their trailers and such.

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Here is a higher view looking south on all 3 lots.  Only 80 more NABI’s left in service.  Their time is really coming quickly now that all of the Nova’s have been delivered.

Graveyard Visit 10/8/17

After a month of drone malfunctions, rainy weather, and no time whatsoever, I was finally able to visit the graveyard to catch up on the retirement of the NABI’s.  Apparently I didn’t miss much from my very last visit in mid-September.

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The northwest lot received 21 more buses, bringing the lot to about 75% full.  736, 734, 742, 743, 768, 771, 796, 763, 772, 940, 732, 802, 793, 737, 776, 787, 844, 795, 751, 855, and 746 were added to the retirement list.

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Nothing really changed in the south lot.  A couple of trailers that are stored here moved, but no buses were added.

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Out of 217 NABI’s, 117 are retired and 100 still remain in active service.  Their days are literally numbered now as all of the 270 new Nova CNG buses have been delivered and are in service.