Specialty Bus Training Day 1: Hybrids

20180223_151820_HDR.jpg

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.

Continue reading “Specialty Bus Training Day 1: Hybrids”

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.

MAX_0025.JPG

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.

MAX_0051.JPG

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.

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.

6023 Not in Service (1).JPG

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.

MAX_0003.JPG

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.

MAX_0028.JPG

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.

MAX_0005.JPG

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.

MAX_0022.JPG

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

DCIM100MEDIAMAX_0024.JPG

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.

Bus Trip 9/28/17

So I happened to be off on Thursday and I needed to head to the Central Library downtown.  To avoid parking fees I thought I would take the bus, despite the rain.

So I drove to Randolph Park & Ride to wait for my bus on route 17 IH 35 Express.  My bus into town would be #390, a 2010 DE40LFR hybrid.  Nothing special to note hear, and it was a quiet quick ride as always.

Got off downtown at Navarro and Commerce, and took a short walk to wait for the first bus to the library.  I didn’t have to wait long as #321 pulled up, a 2005 D40LF on route 96 Vance Jackson.  It was only a 3 minute ride but man, listening to that ZF transmission was awesome.  I don’t ever remember them sounding so loud and whiny.

After my time at the library, I had spare time to just ride the bus.  #325, a 2006 D40LF on route 90 Woodlawn would be my 3 minute trip back to Market Street.  And after a short walk I would stand waiting for about 15 minutes for the 100 PRIMO #951, a 2012 NABI 60-BRT.  For a bus rapid transit route that is supposed to run every 10 minutes during that day, it’s really having scheduling issues.  That will be a topic for another time.  As for #951, this is VIA’s very first articulated bus, and the pilot bus for this order.  Just looking at the interior and you can tell this bus is aging fast.

Anyways I get off at Centro Plaza on the west side of downtown and wait for the 3 San Pedro Skip.  Bus #838 would take me to the North Star Transit Center, a 2000 NABI 40-LFW.

20170928_124720_HDR.jpg

For a bus that is 17 years old, this thing still has power.  I’m not sure if my driver was trying to catch up on her schedule, but she was flooring it when she could and you were sure to be pushed back into your seat.

20170928_124318_HDR.jpg

I spent some time just waiting at the NSTC to decide my next move.  The easiest move would have been to take the 550 Looper back to Randolph, but that bus ALWAYS has a line of about 20 people or more waiting to board it.  Not wanting to feel like a canned sardine, I decided to just take the next 3 to downtown.

But while I was waiting, I happened to notice a new Nova bus (#603) with some body damage that was in service.  This is the first time I’ve seen a bus in service.  VIA has never been this careless when it comes to putting damaged buses in the shop.  I’m not sure if the driver missed it on her pre-trip or maybe this happened earlier in the day, but this is uncalled for.20170928_125928

Speaking of Nova bus, #517 would take me to the VIA Metro Center where I would walk to the 5-points transfer center.  My walk would take me along the south edge of the VIA garage.  Parked here are all the 900-series NABI’s, the 3 Proterra electric buses, and some supervisor cars and trucks.  As has been the case for over the past year, the 3 Proterra’s continue to gather dust in the yard.  Most of the artics were out in service on PRIMO, and most of the older 900’s were out as well.  Saw 2 NABI’s (not sure on their numbers) painted all white, which meant that their time for retirement has come.  Also parked here were Nova’s #670 and #679.  This means that the order for 270 buses is getting close to completion.  After my walk, 2017 Nova bus #508 on route 2 Blanco would take me downtown, where I would catch the same 17 that took me downtown earlier back to Randolph.

While my trip was short, I still had fun.  I was happy knowing that despite their age, the NABI’s are still in service.  While they are being phased out slowly, there’s no telling when they will be finally all put out to rest.