Orion VII bus from Daimler Buses (manufacturer photo)
Orion VII bus from Daimler Buses (manufacturer photo)

King County Metro Transit announced today that it will be purchasing 93 new buses from Daimler Buses through a $46 million grant awarded under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act. King County Metro originally requested funds for 60 new buses but lower costs than expected allowed them to get 33 more. The agreement includes options to purchase 400 more buses in addition to the initial 93 buses over 5 years. Metro said they expect to see the first prototype delivered in about a year and the rest of the ordered buses delivered in early 2011.

The Orion VII buses will feature a modern look, low floors, air conditioning, and hybrid-electric technology which reduces fuel consumption, noise and emissions. They will replace Metro’s aging fleet of 40-foot Gilligs, which will be 14 years old when the new buses arrive. That’s two years longer than the expected life span of a transit bus. The Gilligs that Metro currently has are high floor and don’t have air conditioning. Over 700 hybrid-electric Orion VIIs are currently in service in New York City, Toronto, and San Francisco.

Via Capitol Hill Seattle blog, NWCN

37 Replies to “Metro Receives Stimulus Funds for New Buses”

  1. Hmm…let me see… if these 40-footers are hybrids, perhaps they could be used for evening/Sunday work in the DSTT, where using an artic would be wasteful? Just a thought.

    1. Well, yes and no… The bus could actually function in full electric mode, as it is a series hybrid versus Metro’s current parallel hybrid fleet.

      There is currently functionality to operate the O7 as full-electric as a test mode, but the steering and air systems are not powered when in this mode. A design change could accomodate this functionality.

      Of course, if things go as likely, the tunnel won’t be open to buses for more than 5 more years, so such an engineering feat would be redundant.

      1. The only problem is the battery life might be shortened. It takes a lot of energy to propel a bus (I was shocked buses get 3-5mpg) forward and the batteries would take a real beating. In hybrid mode, the diesel engine is idling when the doors aren’t open and it trickle charges the battery, and revs up more if the bus is moving quickly. That heps reduce the wear, tear, and distance the bus can travel on Metros hybrid mode.

        Does anyone know if Metro’s hybrid mode is unique to KCM or do any other transit agencies use it for some application?

      2. Hybrid buses are nothing special but HUSH mode seems to be unique to Metro because they converted from electric to diesel-electric. Boston has a bus tunnel but it uses dual mode buses like Metro did.

      3. Would it be possiable to outfit these busses with pantographs and transformers so that they could run in full electric mode, and not impact baery life, where we have the overhead lines?

      4. Realistically no. The bus would have to contact the overhead wire as well as the rails below. The rails serve as a ground while the overhead contact wire is the positive. Some device would have to drop out of the bottom of the bus and keep constant contact with the rails. What would happen when the train goes out of the north end of the tunnel where the track go off in a different direction? A switch would have to be installed. Anyways, the buses are out of the tunnel in 7 years.

    2. This has come up many times before. The artics aren’t necessarily wasteful, for two reasons:

      1) Late at night bueses DO fill up. It might not be standing room only, but there are plenty of full buses. Generally, people don’t like standing. So if you can get them sitting down, they’ll like transit more and will use it more.
      2) It costs money and time to drive back to the base and swap a coach out. Not that much if you’re coming from the tunnel, but they still have to pay the operator for operating the coach. If they only have to turn around and take their 10 minute break, they only have to pay them for the break that they already had to pay them for anyways.

      1. I agree, the tunnel routes usually get good overall ridership. I ride the midnight 255 occasionally and can vouch for that. And I won’t forget the overloaded 255 artic after Folk Life.

  2. In general I hate the air conditioned buses. I would much rather have an open window than the air conditioning which seems to have an intake next to the fuel tanks.

    1. it seems incredibly wasteful to have air-conditioned buses – it only gets hot enough to warrant air conditioning in seattle for a couple weeks every year (if that), while the rest of the time the idle air conditioning unit must be lugged around and serviced wasting fuel, parts and labor.

      if i know my fleet history well enough, metro didn’t have any air conditioned buses until around the time of the first batch of the new tunnel buses – how much could be saved by ordering non-air conditioned buses in terms of fuel, service costs, and purchase price?

      1. No matter what bus I am on, people would rather open the windows. Most of the time I ride some of the smaller busses (348) and I find it to be more pleasant with the windows open than if there was air conditioning, because a lot of the time the AC is cranked up way too high. The amount of time where air conditioning is needed is, indeed, very low. I would rather have open windows anyway.

        As far as later tunnel busses using the 40 footers, I don’t agree with that-the tunnel busses all need artics, all the time.

        As far as the shell seats go, do you mean seats like the ones on the newer CT 40-footers?

      2. I dislike having windows opened. It’s often someone who isn’t me deciding the entire bus needs bursts of loud air.

      3. Buying buses without A/C would be short sighted. It gets hot more than just a few days a year around here, and it’s not just the ambient temperature that drives the need for A/C.

        Yes, if you are sitting at an open window of a bus traveling at 30 mph you might not need A/C, but get stuck standing on an SRO bus that is in traffic doing less than 10 mph and I guarantee you will need it — even if the ambient temp is a comfortable 60 F.

        Plus I’m sure buses without A/C don’t sell very well on the used market. If we decide to unload these sometime, or even loan them out short term, then it will be more difficult to do so if they don’t have A/C.

        I believe San Diego originally bought their first LRV’s without A/C based on the premise that SD has “the best weather in America”. The eventually learned the error of their ways and started buying LRV’s with A/C.

    2. from what i’ve noticed on all transit vehicles around the country, the a/c is always on, summer, fall, spring, winter. why dont they turn it off half of the year.

      its amazing how quiet electric vehicles can be without a/c. the old etbs were silent especially when the air compressor was off. the new streetcar can be silent very briefly when the a/c temporarily shuts off.

      1. I think the main issue is that drives don’t realize how cold it is in the bus sometimes.

      2. Ahhh, temperature control. A driver’s favorite subject. I’ve had plenty of times where one person asks for more heat, immediately followed by a person complaining that they are “roasting”.

        The Hybrids have two settings for the Climate control: “Auto” and “Off”. We can also set the target temperature anywhere from 68-74 degrees. These settings aren’t very accurate and there are hot and cold spots throughout the bus. The front of the bus may be exceptionally warm at times when we need the defroster. It’s on a separate, heat-only control.

        If you are cold, I suggest you move to a seat near the isle-facing seats that are just forward of the articulated section. Those tend to be the warmest – both in the summer with the AC running and in the winter with the heat.

  3. Finally it’s formally announced :D I’ve known about this for a couple of months now.

    So they’re going to buy the first 90 or so, test them out and if they work well, buy more.

    What the blurb fails to mention is that Metro currently has 400+ Gillig 40ft coaches. So if the O7 has issues (not likely in my opinion, most of the bugs with O7 hybrids were related to the old niMH battery packs, not the LiIon packs that Metro will receive), the 300 or so remaining Gilligs could live to be 18 years old before retirement.

    So, the next question is how they will be equipped for passengers. 6847 has a different seating arrangement and design from the rest of the 6800’s. Is this the future, a Metro fleet with shell seats?

    1. What’s the difference in 6847? I rode 6845 on Monday and it’s identical to the 2600s except for the new uphostery.

      1. I believe all the 6800s have windows that cannot be opened. I just saw 6847 today in Convention Place and couldn’t figure out how it was any different from the other 6800s (from the outside looking in). The only variation I’ve seen are the seats in the accordion section (2 or 4) and the high voltage cable spanning the accordion (covered or exposed).

  4. Let’s hope these buses can get up our steeper hills without slowing to 5 mph with a full passenger load! (Been there, done that Metro 56 ride on Admiral Way…)

    1. The bus is used in San Francisco and the manufacturer says from Muni:

      “Orion VII series hybrid deemed best hill climber in fleet”

      If you believe what the manufacturer says, then there should be few problems.

    1. The extra capacity isn’t needed. Double talls are heaver, which means more fuel consumption. Also, the double tall is not available with a diesel-electric hybrid.

      1. There is an alexander dennis enviro 500H (42ft hybrid double decker) with an allison Ep50 system floating around, currently in victoria for long term testing. It is powered by a cummins ISL @330 HP.

      2. I stand corrected. Interesting to know!

        So it’d boil down to the fact that that extra capacity wouldn’t justify the extra weight.

        Also, there might be some clearance issues with the double tall. CT operates it on their commuter routes, and I-5 has a ton of clearance.

  5. This is really interesting. They seem to always get German Buses.I wonder who is making pockets of money in the connection with the German firm not only from the Metro or Government management but also inside the union. You never hear anti talk against the purchase of such equiptment. I bet you if the union and some of the managers hear buses made in India they will drive themselves tired to death in complains. You never hear the union complaining about buses not made in America. You always hear the union boys talking about China, Mexico. Is also interesting that one never hears much complain about stuff made in mainly Caucasian countries but the complains are mainly againt non caucasian groups of peoples. Who is making the money behind the so called German monopoly inside Metro King County system. How many families all the way back to Germany is the connection linked to Germany? I do not think Germans made the best buses. They are good buses but so the buses from other countries. Should we start to make a complain and say no to the Germany Connection insise Metro king County system?

    1. All of Metro’s articulated hybrid buses are made by New Flyer which is a American Company. Plus I don’t know for sure where this bus was produced, but many of Daimlers production lines are now in the US south. Plus WTF are you ranting about?

    2. Metro’s current fleet:

      48% New Flyer. Headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Final assembly in Crookston, MN, USA.
      45% Gillig. Headquarted in Hayward, CA, USA.
      4% Breda. Headquarted in Pistoia and Naples, Italy. Assembled in unknown.
      3% Ford (chassis). Headquarted in Dearborn, Michigan, USA. Body built by Champion Bus, headquarted and manufactured in Imlay City, MI, USA.

      These new buses are being made by Orion Bus Industries, headquarted in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. “Orion was acquired by DaimlerChrysler … in July 2000, and is now… part of the Daimler Buses North America” —WP.

      NOTHING in the current fleet is German. And these new buses are technically not German. You indirectly pointed out that in the past Metro has had a substantial amount of buses made by MAN, which is a German company. But if you’re going to come here and troll about nonexistant corruption, next time do some research. I look forward to seeing you bash the Canadians.

  6. I still think this is wrong. We are stealing from the 49 other states to fund local projects. If we cannot fund our own transit projects then we do not deserve them. It is as simple as that.

    1. Congress appropriated money for transit agencies to buy fuel efficient buses. If Metro didn’t apply for the money it just would have gone to another transit agency somewhere in the US.

      Just think of it as getting back some of the money you send in taxes to DC. BTW Washington is a net taxpaying state which means we send more in taxes to DC than we get back in Federal Spending.

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