KCM Orion VII - 128 Southcenter (photo by Atomic Taco)

Metro’s 40-foot Orion VII Next Generation hybrid diesel-electric buses began carrying passengers on Monday. The restyled New Flyer articulated (DE60LFR) buses entered service a few weeks ago. Both of these buses feature the new seats we reported last month. They are low-floor and have automated stop announcements powered by GPS. These 170 Orions are the first low-floor 40-foot buses Metro has purchased since 2003.

The buses are running on routes in South King County. The Orions were spotted running on Route 128 between the Admiral District and Southcenter. The DE60LFRs can be seen on major South King tunnel routes like 101, 106 and 150. If you want to find out which buses are running on which route, you can check the status of a vehicle on OneBusAway using its coach number. The Orions are the 7000 series (7000-7169). The DE60LFRs are coach numbers 6866-6921. For example: Coach 7001 (for other coaches, change the 7001 to the desired number)

I rode a DE60LFR on Route 106 in those new seats. I really like the improved ergonomics. Unlike the old seats, I never slipped in these seats, even as the bus twisted and turned through Georgetown. The concave back fits snugly with my back and keeps it from moving sideways. The cushion was adequate. The lack of a high back didn’t stop me from taking a nap. It makes sitting sideways tolerable. Your feelings may vary.

Read Metro’s press release on the new buses for the costs, funding, and fuel savings.

66 Replies to “Metro’s New Hybrid Buses In Service”

  1. Anyone know when Atlantic Base will get some of these? They’re by far the best type of coach to substitute for trolleys on the 1-4, 13 & 36 on the weekends.

      1. Actually, the 40ft Gilligs used by Atlantic on the weekends usually come from Ryerson Base.

  2. I really, REALLY hope these aren’t those “kneeling” buses that make those god damn ear-shattering beeping noises at every stop.

    1. Perhaps you are overstating things a bit? I’m probably your worst nightmare – I kneel my bus at any stop with lots of people or with anybody that appears to have any trouble walking at all. Many passengers appreciate it. (Although, to date, not one single commendation. Come on folks, let Metro know when your drivers are being considerate. You sure let us know when we’re having a bad day :) As such I listen to that “damn ear-shattering beeping noise” for most of my shift. While I do have tinnitus, that predates my time at Metro as my initial hearing test would show. (Damn, now that I’m writing about my tinnitus I notice it again. Grrr…. Thanks a lot)

      1. It’s always a tradeoff since I’m sure some people appreciate the kneeling, but personally I hate the noise too. Worst case is it sometimes wakes sleeping infant since it’s a harsh sound.

      2. I appreciate the kneeling, though doing it just for me would be a waste of time and energy. Operators tend to err on the side of safety, which is to say kneeling, in part because it is better to perform the service rather than put someone through the humiliating experience of having to ask for it, or worse, not ask for it and have a fall. If I could use the back door more often, unnecessarily kneeling for me wouldn’t be an issue.

        I guess my complaint about the noise is that it is no different from the backup noise. Ideally, it ought to be something different, so people get used to “Oh, that’s the kneeling alarm.” Could the noise be made a lower pitch? This could be an ADA improvement, as the hard-of-hearing will feel the alarm, even if they can’t hear it. I don’t know if operators can detect a hard-of-hearing passenger, so something automatic would be in order to make sure the hard-of-hearing know to wait.

        An electronic “please wait” wouldn’t cut it. Expecting the operator to be able to get the rider’s attention and tell her/him to stop and wait would be a rather unsafe practice. Having the operator put up his/her hand in the stop sign is vulgar in some cultures.

        Is the use of the high-pitch back-up alarm considered “best practice” throughout the industry?


        Oh, and thanks for reminding us how rude the public tends to be toward public servants. I just sent an email to the Executive commending Metro administration and fleet services on this rollout.

      3. I truly despise these things. Seriously, there should be a law against that kind of noise.

        I pity anyone who lives within a block of a bus stop with that kind of bus.

        Transit is crucial for any city. But it should actively make a place suck.

      4. Maybe they could have a loop of Janis Joplin singing “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?”?

      5. The industry is moving from the traditional single-tone backup alarm to a broad band buzzer. Rather than a beep, they make more of a rasping, rattling noise. It’s equally loud, but doesn’t tend to be as piercing as a standard single-frequency alarm. A major bonus is it quickly blends in with white background noise at a distance, where a standard tone alarm will carry over great distances.

      6. If you REALLY want to avoid the ear shattering beeping noises move to North Dakota. Very few buses and darn near nobody to hear them even if there were. I guess the flickertails would bitch about them, however. Except they don’t whine in any human language, that I am aware of, anyway.

      7. Re: David’s Flikr video of the Orion.

        Are you kidding me?

        Has Daimler even heard of the social model of disability. (Hint: the “everybody stand back and cover your ears, something disabled is going on!” noise probably doesn’t fit into it.)

    2. I don’t have a problem with the kneel alarm. It’s the “WHOOSH” of air that bugs me, and I wish Metro would restrict kneeling at night (after 11 PM) in residential areas EXCEPT when absolutely necessary (wheelchair boardings for example).

  3. I think I’ve ridden the 60 ft. new busses on rt. 150 the last couple days, they’re nice!

    I love the red light above the read-out indicating that a stop has been requested, much better than CTA’s way of just using the read out to cycle through things, stop requested among those things.

    1. I rode one of the new 60-footers on the 150 a couple weeks ago. It broke down.

      I hope operators are getting trained on the special mechanical aspects of the new buses before rolling out with them. (This goes for every pick, not just with this rollout.)

      1. Breakdowns are frequent any time new buses arrive. Always takes some time to work the bugs out. One of the new 7000’s broke down yesterday on it’s first day out.

  4. Subjectively, do they seem quieter? I am excited about this possibility because I live on a busy bus street – really hoping for more trolley lines but I know that will take years to come about….

    1. They’re series hybrids, so they should run quieter than the conventional diesels or parallel hybrids already in service. No transmission whine, and no listening to the engine rev up to redline between every gearshift under acceleration.

      In addition, the engines are smaller and quieter; the Orions are using the 5.9L Cummins ISB engine (also found in Dodge pickup trucks), rather than the larger 8.3L Cummins ISL engine used in most of the existing fleet.

      A common sound complaint about series hybrids, though, is that they tend to drone at a constant pitch under full power. This is more of an issue for people riding on the bus than for nearby residents.

      1. This is going to sound unbearably nerdy, but I’m looking forward to hearing them go up the counterbalance on weekends and comparing their noise to the Gilligs crawling up there.

        I read somewhere that the steepest grade SF Muni’s diesel busses take is 22%. That must have sucked before they got the Orions.

      2. @Bruce
        There’s at least 1 running today on route 128(#7030). So far they’re only using them on route 128 that I can see. That route has a stretch on S 144th that’s the about same slope as the counterbalance (although only for two blocks) with a stop sign at the bottom. Wonder how they’re doing on that?

      3. I saw one drive up 144th and another come down. It started off quick, but was crawling near the top of the hill. Going down, it’s about what you’d expect from a (insert number) ton vehicle.

      4. I’m surprised it would be slow on hills. The sales PDF I linked to below claims (page 9) that SF Muni says it’s the “best hill-climber in the fleet.” I would expect a serial hybrid to kick ass on steep hills; like trolleys, they should be able to develop huge torque at low speeds.

      5. I doubt it would be any slower than one of our existing New Flyers or Gilligs. 100% of the torque is available at any vehicle speed.

        But there’s still no getting around the fact that it’s a 280hp engine in a 21 ton vehicle.

    2. Oops made a mistake there. Actually, the older coaches that are being replaced use the even bigger 10.8L Cummins M11. Even louder. We didn’t start getting ISLs until the 2004 EPA emissions requirements came into effect – the M11 doesn’t meet them.

    3. I was walking down Morgan Street in West Seattle yesterday and the new bus passed me. I didn’t really notice it until I caught up with it at the stop sign and realized I hadn’t really “heard” it pass me. It was very quiet, no louder than a well-running car. I usually can hear a bus coming from behind without turning around. Not so here.

  5. One problem I have found with the old seats is they tend to push the person by the window towards the center of the seat. A few times I have moved as close as possible to the window but after a few minutes I have slid/moved about 4-6 inches away from the window with the right side of my body over the half way mark of the seats. Hopefully this will help.

  6. Also can anyone that rides on a route that has stop annunciation give some feedback. How well is it working?

    1. I’ve only ridden these things a few times so my experience is limited but I think they’re working quite well.

      They are still missing some key announcements like: first/last stop in the Ride Free Area or Last local stop before an express portion. These should be automatic. Not every bus announced their route and destination when the doors open.

      When they first came out, the system was missing many landmarks that drivers usually call out in the tunnel. I rode one last Sunday and they added them back.

      For the most part, every stop name is displayed on the screen but not always enunciated. The stop names could use some work but thank goodness they don’t scroll. Ever!

      I can’t wait until all buses have this system.

      1. They could throw in a few PSAs…

        “You are encouraged to use the back door for deboarding, as you are able, so that others may board more quickly.”

        “Thank you for using ORCA, and not making everyone else on the bus hate you by dropping a roll of nickels into the coin box.”

        “Hey dudes, turning up the volume on your boombox so that the whole bus can hear you is bad for your hearing.”

        “Please don’t cuss out the driver. If you get in his face, he’s going to throw your sorry a@@ off the bus. Well, okay, da police will throw your sorry a@@ off the bus. And we aren’t going anywhere until you shut up.”

        “Thank you for riding Metro.”

      2. @Brent: tongue in cheek as your suggestion may be, its not entirely a bad idea.

        Personally, I like how Translink PD does it in Vancouver: “Help us by reporting anything unusual. Y’know, Other than the usual, unusual.”

      3. So far none of these coaches go into the free ride zone. They are being rolled out on a route that goes from Southcenter to West Seattle. They also don ‘t operate in the tunnel. They are not battery hybrids. The diesel engine spins a generator that produces power thus they can’t be used in the tunnel as the engine runs all the time.

      4. Actually, they do. I’m talking about my experience with the automated announcements on the articulated New Flyers on routes 101, 106, and 150 in the tunnel and out. I haven’t rode the Orions yet, which is what you’re talking about.

    2. I was on a northbound 150 last week listening and watching for the Baker Blvd stop (it’s a timed transfer point according to the Metro map), and the annunciator completely missed it. Good thing I already knew where Baker Blvd is, or I might have ridden further than I intended. Other than that, I like the annunciators on the 150 and A Line.

      1. I was talking to a supervisor on the 150(SB from E-3 busway to Kent) who was out there just to make sure that system was working, from my observation (sunday) it called out major stops, and it called out every stop that was requested (major or not)

  7. These buses are the serial hybrid technology, right? How many electric motors per bus?

      1. Funny how the server URL is still based on “DaimlerChrysler Bus North America”!

        It is also funny to watch Mercedes-Benz, er I mean DaimlerBenz, wait, no “Daimler” tip-toe around their outside-of-North-America identity in the USA market. See the Sprinter van as the first example.

        Like nobody would buy a Mercedes S-class because there is a Mercedes transit bus available. Of course, the spine-less politicians would also never buy a New York-built “Mercedes” Bus even if it was cheaper than a Canadian-built NewFlyer or a Hungarian-built NABI.

  8. For the DE60LFR, what design features/changes constitute the “R” (restyled front)?

      1. I’ll look forward to the potential chance of riding the 150 should I be so lucky as for one to show up at my stop though I realize that there will still be old style buses on that route and that the 150 is not the only route, just the one that I might actually take instead of the 101 and 106 which are both very find routes and I hope no one felt slighted that I did not mention these buses as well in my comment.

        Ok?

  9. Anyone know if Metro will purchase different busses for routes with long freeway-running segments like the 216? I imagine that parallel hybrids like the Gilligs that ST is getting would perform better on those routes. Then again, freeway-running routes using 40′ coaches are somewhat rare for Metro, so maybe it doesn’t matter much.

    Interestingly, people at ST tell me that there’s no cost advantage to hybrid busses for them — their commitment to go all-hybrid is (arguably) something of a feel-good thing (except for the 550, which runs in the tunnel.) This makes sense when you contemplate the duty cycle of most ST routes.

    1. It sure helped that the feds kicked in $38 million for these buses (through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act). That might have helped tip the scales in Metro’s calculations.

      The feds are kicking in $20 million for the C/D line buses.

      It seems like Metro gambled that the feds would eventually kick in matching funds for fleet replacement, and the gamble paid off.

      Google hybrid buses and see how many agencies around the country benefitted from federal incentivization.

      1. Feds wouldn’t have given us any money if we bought straight diesels. That’s why ST is buying hybrids. Assuming they had they not got fed money, the projected fuel savings would not be enough to offset the higher purchase price.

    2. I highly doubt they’ll buy separate buses for different purposes. For highway running, the fuel mileage difference between series hybrids, parallel hybrids, and even conventional diesels is trivial. Like you say, Sound Transit sees no fuel economy advantage. Metro has reported that the service costs for hybrids are lower, though – less brake and transmission wear, mostly.

      In any case, even after replacing all the Gilligs, Metro’s still going to have 100 D40LF diesels around for probably the next decade, that would be ideal for the handful of freeway-running 40′ routes.

      1. Interesting. Do you know if the automatic transmissions on D40LFs (or any Metro busses for that matter) have lockup converters? Are the CVTs on the New Flyer hybrids belt or hydraulic?

        A diesel engine cruising at freeway speeds with a lockup converter is essentially directly coupled to the axle shaft and operating near its peak efficiency, I would think. I surprised (in a good way) that serial hybrids can match that efficiency.

      2. All recent transmission designs have lockup converters. I haven’t checked into it, but I’m sure all our low-floor buses do. Our older buses (the Gilligs) might only lock-up in high gear, if at all.

        The New Flyer hybrids are using an Allison H50EP, which is actually a half-toroidal roller system (still requiring a torque converter). The heaviest-duty belt-type CVT’s commercially available right now can only handle about 200 ft-lbs, and heavy duty hydraulic designs are quite expensive.

  10. My neighborhood is interested in getting Spanish announcements on the on-board message boards. I’ve seen the a message board on the 60, but not yet in any format that could be recognized as characters.

    I hope they are flash-then-solid, rather than scrolling.

    1. It just shows stop name so it can’t really be in Spanish. The announcement says “next stop is ___”. I think after one or two stops anyone would be able to figure it out, even if they don’t know English. Traveling around Europe and only knowing English I did just fine.

      Cases in which do you want a foreign language is when you are announcing stop with large number of tourist (pike place, seattle center, UW, etc) or at stops related to higher order travel hubs (Amtrak, SeaTac, WSF, etc.)

      1. Cases in which do you want a foreign language is when you are announcing stop with large number of tourist {destinations]… or at stops related to higher order travel hubs

        Wouldn’t those also be largely the same in a spoken foreign language?

      2. “La universidad de Washington” for UW.

        Ahora entrada la station de Mount Baker. Puertas a la derecha.
        (Now entering Mount Baker Station. Doors to the right)

    2. We could have Spanish and Vietnamese and Chinese and Japanese and so on and so on and when the first announcement was done the coach would be at the end of the line.

  11. Transit in general owes STB a lot of gratitude for this posting, and the discussion, especially the technical points. Also for an ongoing effort to inform and involve a whole new generation in critical thinking on public transportation, present and future.

    Current budgetary problems are temporary and solvable. But the success of this region’s every transit endeavor depends above all on the emergence of a strong, organized force composed of technically-knowledgeable and politically active young voters.

    Some of whom will get elected to the city and county councils, and end up on transit boards. And in the state legislature, and the US Congress, Senate. And the”lack of leadership” everybody hates will become a thing of the past.

    Looking forward to it. Thanks again to Oran and everybody who wrote in.

    Mark Dublin

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