Specialty Bus Training Day 5: NABI

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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!

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Specialty Bus Training Day 4: Xcelsior

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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!

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Specialty Bus Training Day 3: Trolley

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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.

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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.

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.