Friday, January 13, 2017

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Trial on community shuttles kicks off to see if replacing old buses is feasible


Calgary Transit fleet manager Russell Davies thinks the new Vicinity shuttle buses look cool, but wants to ensure they live up to the hype and last twice as long as their clunky predecessors.

What looks like a bus, feels like a bus, but is actually a community shuttle in disguise?

It’s Calgary Transit’s brand new fleet of 10 Vicinity 30-foot shuttle buses ready to hit the streets.

For two years, transit has been going through the procurement process to test out a new generation of buses. They cost twice as much as the traditional shuttles at $320,000 a pop, but the modern design can hold more passengers and could be more fuel-efficient.

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Russell Davies, fleet manager, likes to call them “midi” buses, a happy medium between the traditional shuttles and their full-sized buses. He’s hoping they can last just as long as their bigger brothers; which is one of the things they’re testing for two years before committing to more vehicles.

“It’s meant to last twice as long,” said Davies. “We’ll be looking at maintenance costs, operating costs, fuel economy.”

He adds that unlike the older shuttles, the Vicinity is a designed bus, it has heavy duty bus pieces that the big buses have; inside, it has integrated heating and cooling systems, seats more people and has standing room. They’ve also got rid of the dirty seatbelts for wheelchair users with a new hi-tech system that locks the wheels in place securely.

Thomas Dixon is an avid transit user, is excited to try the shuttles out.

“It looks like the perfect solution,” he said. “I do know this: it will be a big improvement over the smaller bus which is very noisy and rough riding.”

He may have a point. In person, it’s hard to tell when the driver starts up the engine – unless you’re standing behind the vehicle.

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These new shuttles have a back door, something that Davies said could save precious seconds on each drop off and pick up. To drivers, and passengers, that’s a big deal.

“It sounds trivial, but getting people off and on is always one of our bigger issues,” said Davies. His example is how cold it gets on the old shuttles when passengers are loading on strollers.

“That second door makes a huge difference,” said Davies.

During the trial, transit will be polling Calgarians on how they feel about the new look and feel, and determine if it’s worth it.