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47 CHAPTER FIVE EXPERIENCES WITH HIGHER CAPACITY BUSES WHY AND WHERE ARE THEY USED capacity, including an increase in the level of service through (DRIVING FACTORS IN DECISIONS)? the introduction of a BRT, introduction of attractive new transit pass programs (e.g., university U-Pass programs), and Higher capacity buses are used in a variety of applications, as enhancement of customer amenities on vehicles (although was discussed in chapter two, but certain patterns are appar- there remains little understanding of how this affects rider- ent, depending on the type of HC bus being considered: ship behavior). Articulated buses are predominantly deployed in all- The second general finding is that experience with HC day heavy-demand trunk (or BRT) services, but are also buses has generally been positive, with some variation by used to a lesser extent in various other types of services, type of vehicle. The overall positive experience is evident including peak-only service on trunk routes, commuter from various indicators: express services to park-and-ride lots, trippers that experience overloads, replacement service for rail shut- Respondents reported overwhelmingly that HC buses downs, and high-demand special events. had met their expectations. Only three systems have deployed double-deck buses Respondents rated their experience with HC buses as (although several others are planning to), and deployment very good (59% to 71%). has been for long-distance commuter express services Agency-reported customer acceptance was noted as (e.g., Victoria Regional Transit), and also on heavy- being positive (64% to 79% ranked customer experi- demand trunk routes (e.g., Las Vegas and Victoria). ence as very good). Forty-five-foot intercity coaches are the most focused Agency-reported operator acceptance was noted as in their application, because they are overwhelmingly being positive (64% to 79% ranked operator experience used in long-distance express commuter services. They as very good). are occasionally also used to serve special high-demand In terms of vehicle performance, survey respondents sports events or in emergencies. Phoenix Transit uses ranked the performance of 45-ft and double-deck its 45-ft Compo buses for BRT express service. GO buses as the same or better than that of their standard Transit (Orlando, Florida) also uses 45-ft coaches for buses. their suburban circumferential BRT service; however, Spare ratios for all HC buses were the same or lower this is an unusual configuration for BRT, because it is than for standard buses. almost entirely used along expressways, and stop dis- tance is much greater than is typical for BRT service. The most common area of concern for all transit systems Some respondents mentioned that HC buses were being with HC buses was the capital cost of the vehicle, ranked as used to increase ridership along a future rail corridor the most, or second most, significant concern by approxi- (LRT or commuter rail). mately one-third of survey respondents. No other single issue was significant across all HC buses. EXPERIENCE WITH HIGHER CAPACITY BUSES Experience and Issues Related Overall Findings with Respect to Specific Vehicle Types to Higher Capacity Buses A number of vehicle-specific areas of concern were men- In terms of experience, two general conclusions can be made tioned for the various types of buses. from the synthesis findings. First, there is no evidence that ridership is directly affected by the introduction of HC buses. Respondents were evenly divided between those who Forty-Five-Foot Buses thought that measurable ridership increases could be attrib- uted to the introduction of HC buses and those who did not. In general, 45-ft buses ranked high in performance, ride qual- Where ridership increases were apparent, it appeared to be ity and comfort, amenities, and respondent experience, but more of a result of other factors than the mere increase in suffered in four specific areas:

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48 A majority of respondents mentioned that the turning Historically, acceleration, caused by underpowered engines, maneuverability of 45-ft buses was poorer than that of appears to be a common problem in articulated buses. One pos- the standard bus. This is explained by the longer wheel- sible explanation may be the inability to fit a larger engine in the base of the vehicle, which increases ride comfort, but engine compartment. Although the problem appears to have constrains its use on routes with tight turns. been significant with older articulated bus models, and may be Several respondents mentioned that the wheelchair lift eliminated in the future through the deployment of hybrid ar- and securement system was a considerable constraint ticulated buses (discussed in chapter four), it was a commonly because of the disruption it caused and the time required reported area of concern. One respondent mentioned that the for operation; at least one respondent mentioned that poor acceleration resulted in different running times than for a they would avoid using 45-ft buses on routes with reg- standard bus in the same corridor. ular wheelchair patrons. Several respondents mentioned that the steep steps and In addition to the above-mentioned issues related to the the narrow aisle were a limitation for some customers. HC vehicles, only those operating articulated buses cited The dwell time of 45-ft buses at stops, caused by passen- maintenance costs as a major issue or concern (12 of 23, or gers boarding up the steep stairs, can have a repercussion 52%), and a somewhat smaller percentage (10 of 23, or 43%) on the dwell time of other buses sharing the same stop or reported articulated bus reliability to be lower than their 40-ft bus bay, and becomes even more pronounced if wheel- buses. On a vehicle basis, articulated buses have more com- chair passengers need to board or exit the bus. ponents to fail and repair (an extra axle; additional tires, brakes, and doors; the articulated joint; etc.); therefore, those survey responses may be in question. However, none of Double-Deck Bus the other HC vehicle types (except the 45-ft Compo bus) reported poorer reliability or maintenance costs as an issue or The double-deck bus ranked high with respect to seat capac- concern. ity, turning maneuverability, and attractiveness of the vehicle to both customers and operators; the upper deck in particular is very popular because of the view it offers and the quietness King County Metro Transit Maintenance of the ride. Issues of concern included: Experience with Articulated Buses Winter operation (although that has now been mitigated To explore the issue of articulated bus maintenance cost in by the addition of a control to temporarily decrease the more detail, the experience of King Country Metro was ex- load on the tag axle). amined. King County Metro in Seattle, Washington, was a Passenger movement in the tight stairwell and related member of the original Super-Bus Consortium and has oper- potential for safety concerns (although no negative ex- ated articulated buses since 1978. Over the years, it has perience was actually reported). operated a wide range of articulated buses, including dual- Dwell time (Las Vegas has opted to acquire a bus with mode articulated buses and most recently a significant fleet two stairwells to improve passenger interior flow). of dieselelectric hybrid articulated buses. Interestingly, none of the respondents operating double-deck Approximately one-half of Metro Transit's active fleet is buses viewed the infrastructure modification cost as significant. articulated vehicles and as of January 2007 Metro Transit had 517 articulated motor buses in revenue service as shown in Table 41. Composition of the Metro Transit 40-ft sub-fleet is Articulated Buses shown in Table 42. Respondents with articulated buses were much more divided Metro Transit uses approximately 57% of the motor bus in their opinions concerning experience with the vehicle. The articulated buses for its CORE service, 35% for Express only area where a majority of respondents believed that the service, and 8% for other high ridership routes (mixed articu- articulated bus was superior in performance to standard lated and 40-ft service). The 40-ft buses are used primarily on buses concerned turning maneuverability. This finding is not the CORE service routes; however, some are used on lower surprising because of the shorter wheelbase of the front sec- tion of the articulated bus. TABLE 41 However, more than half of respondents perceived that KING COUNTY METRO TRANSIT ARTICULATED BUS the performance of articulated buses was less than that of SUB-FLEET standard 40-ft buses, in three areas in particular: Fleet ID Model Propulsion Year No. 2600 DE60LF Dieselelectric hybrid 2004 214a Fuel economy, 2800 D60LF Diesel 2004 30 Grade climbing, and 2300 D60HF Diesel 19982000 273 Acceleration. a Includes the prototype bus.