Cathy LaFrance steers her mobility scooter down the ramp of one of BC Transit’s new $319,000 30-foot buses at the Duncan Railway Station on Thursday afternoon and is more than satisfied with the accessibility design features.
“Before I always needed to be assisted by the driver to be strapped in whereas now I don’t, I can just drive in and back into the spot,” she said. “I’ve used the buses before and the other ones were fairly accessible but this just takes it one step further.”
The six new 24-seat buses being introduced by the Cowichan Valley Regional District and the crown corporation over the coming months is through a local government lease fee program and part of an over $1.9 million local investment in public transit.
BC Transit has undertaken a province-wide refresh program with over 100 new buses set to arrive in communities across British Columbia.
In Cowichan Valley, that meant replacing an 18-year-old fleet with new ones builty by Grande West Transportation International Ltd., based in Aldergrove, B.C.
RELATED: Take a virtual tour inside Grande West Transportation’s Vicinity bus
At an open house in downtown Duncan on Thursday where one of buses was available to board, B.C. Transit’s director of fleet management Denny Byrne highlighted the closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras as one of the features of the Vicinity model bus.
“Inside there’s a camera system and it has six different angles, interior and exterior, that captures data and if we need it we can retrieve it and help support law enforcement,” she said.
There are two of the new vehicles on the road in Cowichan Valley right now with the remaining four to be added before the end of the summer. Each bus weighs 13,7000 kg and has 44 person capacity.
Other features include bike racks, two doors (not currently on the fleets older 30-foot buses), a ramp and an automatic passenger counter.
“That’s when there’s a sensor above the door at the front entrance and rear entrance and it counts the number of people coming and going,” Byrne said.
Colin Oakes, general manager for First Transit, which operates the buses through a partnership with BC Transit and the CRVD, said these vehicles have it all, from the cleaner more powerful engine to “the most up-to-date technology you can have.”
“It’s going to be a good improvement for the residents of the Cowichan Valley,” he said. “The passenger data is for when we’re deciding where routes are busy and where they’re not. It’s all for information on what we can improve in the future.”
The Vicinity buses have a 270 litre diesel engine and BC Transit hasn’t done the costing but anticipates not only a savings on fuel due to greater efficiencies but also less of an environmental impact from greenhouse gas emissions.
“We imagine that we’ll see a significant reduction of emission and there will be some natural fuel savings. Just like a new car, it definitely performs better than one from 20 years ago,” Byrne said.
By this time next year six more 35-foot buses in the local fleet will be taken off the road and replaced with new vehicles built by Grande West.
And while the new buses are amortized at 10 years versus the 17 years for those being decomissioned, the transit service said they anticipate trying to stretch out that timeline based on standard of care and kilometres on the road.
Byrne said she also hopes the rollout will encourage people to consider choosing public transit more often.
“You can’t help but notice it’s a new bus. You saw the before and after and the stark difference,” she said. “I think people who are infrequent passengers or who maybe haven’t had the opportunity (to ride public transit), it creates a real buzz in the community.”
See the Original article and a video here