"KCM 7000", by Zargoman

[UPDATE: Metro tells me this is a prototype bus, used just for testing. The production run won’t arrive till the end of this year or early 2011].

Bus porn isn’t really my beat, but the new Hybrid Orion VII buses have arrived and are roaming around the county. Oran reported last year that Metro purchased these with federal stimulus funds. These low-floor, air-conditioned buses will replace 14-year-old, high-floor, non A/C-equipped Gilligs.

55 Replies to “Orion VIIs are is here”

    1. I’m not a bus propulsion expert, but I believe the Orion VII are “series hybrids” that unlike the New Flyer DE40LFs can relatively cheaply be converted to fully electric operation. At the TCC meeting KC Metro reps mentioned something about BAE already giving a presentation about converting Orions to ETBs:

      Probably it would be new Orions and not these, though.

      1. I don’t see any point in doing that… running on electricity costs less than diesel even at today’s prices, and generally people like the ETBs.

      2. That’s true, but the big question is the capital costs for ETBs. If it turns out to be pretty cheap to modify the Orions I think it’s a win-win situation.

        By the way anyone know how much they cost? Simply dividing the $43m by 93 buses works out to about $495k each, but I don’t know if the grant covered all the costs.

      3. Ought-oh:

        Fully automatic contact wire hookup: Dual mode in Esslingen

        “The approach to use purely electric vehicles, favored for reasons of environmental protection and the possibility of entirely substituting for petroleum as primary energy source, has proven unsuitable in practice. The two network/battery vehicles did not live up to expectations either from an economic or a technical viewpoint.”

        If deep discharge/recharge is the issue then perhaps this concept would still fly in Seattle as long as we’re keeping the off wire range short. I think the Prius attempts to limit battery discharge to 80%. Not sure how many miles a bus could make it on 20% of it’s battery charge, what the “magic number” would be to make it practical (length of longest anticipated reroute, length of DSTT?), or if beefing up the battery pack over the standard diesel series hybrid is an option.

      4. A little more encouraging news from San Francisco:

        Modern trolley buses have an auxiliary power unit (APU), which allows the buses to travel off-wire for several blocks and avoid anything blocking their normal route, such as an excavation in the street or a street fair.

        Apparently all of the new SF ETBs (built by Czech company ETI) use a diesel APU. It doesn’t say exactly but I’d assume they still have a battery to assist the APU allowing it to be much smaller than what would be required to meet peak output requirements.

        More from the bad news bears department though. Divide out the cost for the order of 273 buses and it works out to $860,000 each. Sticker price on the new hybrids is “roughly $500,000 (approximately $150,000 more than a conventional diesel bus).” Unless there’s still a pile of federal dollars in the trough it’s looking like bye bye tolley buses.

      5. There is in fact something like $11m in Federal fixed-guideway money in play. Also, that looks like prices for 30′ and 40′ buses. The DE60LFs hybrids are listed at $645,000 in the NREL report, and 59 of Metro’s trolleys are 60′.

      6. Do ETBs qualify as fixed-guideway? Their routes are fixed by the wires but they aren’t guided. I hope it’s more than $11 million, that entire sum would only fund a third of the difference in cost for replacing the ETB fleet even at a conservative $215,000 delta in price. SFMTA sure got a sweet deal from Uncle Sam on their ETBs funded by federal (81.5%), state (5.2%) and local (13.3%) sources. That works out to $191 million in 2003 dollars and most of that went overseas.

      7. Minor correction:

        The SF Muni ETB’s were built by Skoda (pronounced “Shkoda”).

        ETI was the USA-based company created to have an “American partner” and to get around the silly “Buy American” protectionist rules. ETI tightened the widgets on the buses when they arrived here.

      8. Thanks for the clarification. More info on Electric Transit, Inc. and how they disolved after losing the bid to New Flyer for the Vancouver BC tolley order at Wikipedia. The link Trolley bus maker hits the brakes is interesting.

        Welding machines, lathes, vises and other tools worth around 7 million Kc ($270,000) will be auctioned off in the west Bohemian town of Ostrov in mid-July [2004].

        That is all that remains of the country’s most famous trolley bus maker, Skoda Ostrov, which was once the biggest manufacturer of trolleys in the world. In its 40-year history the company produced more than 10,000 electric-powered buses for cities such as San Francisco, Daytona, Florida and, closer to home, Plzen.

        Although the collapse of Skoda Ostrov is indicative of a decline in the global trolley bus market, trolley bus production will continue in the country.

        The two remaining bus manufacturers, Skoda Electric and Dopravni podnik Ostrava, will continue to supply spare parts and vehicles for the domestic and foreign market.

        Both companies have announced that they have obtained foreign orders for their vehicles.

    1. I second that notion, sitting “higher” up on the high floor usually provided a quieter ride and it was a better view when crossing a bridge. But no A/C is no bueno on a hot day with a full load and stuck in traffic.

    2. High floors always (IMO) have the best ride quality. It’s more fun to sit up above everything too. To me, they feel a lot less cramped than low floors, even when full of people. Low floors feel really small, dark, and cramped to me. The slow wheel chair lift is the ONLY downside I can see with high floor buses.

      1. The stairs on the high floor buses are also more difficult for adults who don’t need the lift but have limited mobility (bad knees for example), and for small children like mine. On the other hand, they like riding up high too!

      2. That’s not really the solution or answer I was looking for. That still doesn’t solve the crappy ride and view issue. But the back, next to the drug dealers (I’ve seen them before and it’s wonderful) and people that yell at themselves? No thanks.

      3. Bredas have the highest floors of any bus in the fleet.

        The ride must be the most smooth.


      4. No, but I think it’s true that low-floors tend to have a stiffer ride: the suspension travel is necessarily shorter because the floor is in the way.

      5. On both high-floor and low-floor buses, the wheel wells intrude into the passenger compartment. I’m not convinced that the low-floor buses in Metro’s fleet have less suspension travel than the high-floor buses.

      6. LOL. The “suspension travel” is exactly the same, as the suspension is a function of the wheels and associated axles, not the floor of the passenger compartment.

        My experience is that the Flyer low-floor ride is smoother – not insignificantly because the engine compartment is better insulated and the hybrid nature of the vehicle provides for less ongoing vibration. A lower profile also means a lower arc – when you’re riding higher up, you travel further from side to side as the vehicle turns and sways.

      7. I’m taller than the average adult male. A crush-loaded, standing room only Gillig requires painful bending of my neck to avoid hitting my head on the ceiling. Plus, the high floor amplifies the swaying motion of the bus. Between a Gillig Phantom (diesel) and a New Flyer D40LF, I’d much rather ride in the D40LF, despite its reduced seating capacity. In addition to its better headroom, the D40LF also feels (subjectively) faster and more stable.

      8. I’ve always found the high-floors to feel small, dark, and cramped. The roof always seemed lower in relation to the floor. Some of it probably has to do with the increased number of seats in the front of high-floors.

        I don’t mind them either way, though. I really liked CT’s old RTSes, though. They were far more comfortable than all of their Inveros and D60LFs.

  1. I know this is kind of getting into the weeds, but I do like how Metro has pretty much standardized the back of all their buses from various manufacturers. The rear lights are always a stack of three lights with the yellow indication in the middle. Even the cutaway vans have the same configuration, only horizontal. Surprisingly, this isn’t always the case with transit agencies.

      1. The more visibility in AND out the better, for both drivers and passengers.

        Most transit agencies also “manage to survive” w/o automated announcements, ORCA-type cards, every 10 minute service and a host of other things which aren’t good policy; I’d be the first to admit this is a very low priority, though I think not having back windows is silly.

      2. The back window lets you see whether another bus is coming that goes closer to your destination. This doesn’t matter much on the diesel routes, but it does on the trolleys if you’re going to Capitol Hill.

      3. +1 Mike – I really, really, really hate being on buses with no back windows, for exactly that reason.

      4. unless your a bunch of gang-bangers in the back, then you never know if theres a transit patrol car tailing the bus. “better be good”

      5. From what I’ve seen, what used to be back window space on older buses is taken up with A/C equipment on new buses.

        Sound Transit uses a few high floor 40′ Gilligs of the same era as Metro’s. I see them on the 554 a lot. The ST ones are air conditioned and have no back window. The Metro ones have no A/C but have a back window.

  2. But the anti-ETB study said specifically:

    Diseasels last 16 years!

    So how com the Gilligs are going to the scrapper after 14?

    1. Because they’ve lasted 16 metric years, not 16 calendar years. Good question though. How old are the trollys? OLD?!

      1. Really old, depending on how you measure. The Gillig trolleys were purchased without traction, and the motors were transplanted from the AM General trolley fleet when it was retired.

    2. Gillig phantoms have a reputation of lasting a very long time compared to other bus bodies. I have no idea what shape Metro’s are in but the bodies should be able to last as long as the AM General or GM “new look” coaches.

      1. I read an article a few months back, I think it was in the P-I but I’m not sure, where a maintenance worker said the bodies and frames of the Gilligs have started cracking.

        The worker was quoted saying that they’ve been welding and patching them up, but that they will start to leak rainwater if not replaced soon.

        Of course, other transit agencies (San Francisco, for example) don’t care about leaking buses. I’d rather stay dry, personally. The Metro bus experience is bad enough already; staying out of the rain is one of it’s true benefits.

  3. When I drove trolleybuses, I appreciated being able to see the retriever ropes in the back window, to be sure poles had switched correctly. Mirrors and no-contact alarm didn’t always give this information.

    As a driver and a passenger, I also found it helpful to be able to see the number of a bus directly behind me. Would really like to know the mechanical trade-offs here- aboard a transit vehicle, the more I can see, the better.

    In that connection, my biggest complaint about current generation of low-floor New Fliers is the terrible vision from the passenger compartment- it’s like there’s more pillar space than window space. I know that a low-floor machine has some special structural considerations, but really resent blocked views.

    Second complaint, general cramped discomfort- like mass-produced shoes that just don’t fit. Once again, low-floor New Flyers are about the worst I’ve ever experienced. Metro seat cushions and their covering add to the problem- in addition to being crowded, seats are both slippery and tilted forward, making ride doubly uncomfortable.

    Community Transit buses of the same make, with formed metal seats and unsprung cushions, are much more comfortable. If I’m not being fair, would somebody in Metro procurement straighten me out?

    As for whether hybrids threaten trolley service- it’s up to those of us who value electric transit to make sure, politically, that they don’t.

    BTW, any definition of “Bus Porn”, or do you just know it when you see it?

    Mark Dublin

    1. It’s hard to get comfortable in those seats, but they’re super easy to clean. Sort of a trade-off. It’s always a hoot to see the hybrids struggle up the hilly electric runs on the weekend. Sounds like they’re going to die at 5mph.

      1. That does sound like a hoot!
        High floor busses have better engines or something, right? Because they always seem to make the ride and hill easier.
        And of course the better ride considering bumpiness.

      2. If those ridiculous seats are “super easy to clean,” then why are they never clean? I’ve started to recognize some of the stains and goo and build-up on a number of buses. At this point, I ride standing up and try to touch as few surfaces as possible on Metro.

        Metro’s huge seats spill over into what should be a wide aisle, reducing standing room and passing space, and lengthening dwell times.

        They also leave precious little room for their occupants’ legs, which tend to find their way further in to the aisle, reducing standing room and passing space, and lengthening dwell times even more.

        Metro’s seats — like “pay as you exit” — are great examples of things that Metro does in a way that contradicts the experience of every successful transit system on earth. How do they continue to justify doing things “their way” when the world is so full of examples of better ways?

  4. Question: Did Metro buy the Li-Ion batteries on top, or Lead Acid or none?
    How far can it go on batteries alone (generally)?

  5. It’s probably just me but I just hate the paint scheme on Metro’s buses. The clean white buses from Community Transit, Pierce Transit, TransLink or TriMet look so much better than these mutliple colors on Metro. Wouldn’t all-white cost a lot less to paint than these multiple colored buses anyway?

    1. I’m really glad I’m not alone in this. The colors just really just seem hokey to me, very schoolbus-esque and kinda grab bag combination. I really can’t get over that the multiple color don’t signify anything, except for the rapid ride red, and I’m REALLY not a fan of that combo. The plan whites or single bases paired with simple, limited colors accents look a lot cleaner visually. Much more modern and professional to me.

    2. I personally like the colors of metro buses. It’s cool that they’re different from all the other transit agencies. It’s easier to see when a white bus is dirty.

      1. I agree. I thought the green/blue/teal looked great when they were introduced with the Gilligs, and still look great today. The green especially is very “Seattle/Northwest” to me.

        However, RapidRide red looks like crap. The Wienermobile factor is almost unbearable.

      2. I can agree with this. I do like the blue/teal/green, but its the orange-yellow that I get hung up on. I loved the green that appeared on the early Seattle trolley fleet.

        As for the RapidRide, its a bit too ridiculous.

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