73 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: How a Bus is Made”

  1. The video makes it plain that a bus, like a house, is enclosed space, not solid volume. That is, the materials, and their weight, used are for creating surface area..

    I’m thinking back to the “empty” buses versus shuttles argument. It makes more sense to build and use the standard size buses even when less full, because its the passengers’ weight who would determine the added fuel costs, the shell of the bus probably adding very little.

    1. This is true. a New Flyer D30LF (30ft) is mechanically no different* from a D40LF (40ft), except for missing 10ft of space, windows, seats, and an extra set of doors.

      It makes sense to standardize your fleet on one or two vehicle types, unless you are paying your operators different wages to operate the different sized vehicles, since that’s where most of your costs are anyway.

      * Same Engine, Transmission, Axles, HVAC and most body components. There might be slight differences in the brake setup, electrical (although most of those components are the same) CNG/Fuel systems to account for the different length of the vehicle.

    2. Short buses are for sure worth naught. But, like MrZ says, operators for smaller vehicles can be cheaper. I wonder if night routes might better be served with those narrow vans so popular in Europe. Drivers aren’t specialized hence pull in less pay and gas is without doubt cheaper for one of those vans full than for a bus mostly empty.

  2. I wonder if double decker busses would work for Metro or Sound Transit. Alexander Denis has built busses for the north american market & can be found mostly in tourist cities such as NYC. However there are a handful of transit agencies that also have them. The largest opperators are Go Transit of Toronto http://www.gotransit.com& the RTC http://www.rtcsnv.com serving Las Vegas.

    This particular bus is known as the Enviro 500 & comes in three lenths – 40, 42 & 45 feet. The latter moddle can seat 81 & stand 27 as configgured by the RTC. This bus doesn’t require lifts or flip out ramps, everyone steps on & off with ease including those with mobility devices.

    1. As it turns out, Sound Transit is going to start using double Decker buses on some Community Transit operated routes. For King County Metro, it would probably work similarly to how it works for Community Transit. It would only work well for limited stop expresses because dwell time at stops could be huge, but it would probably do OK on combined local/expresses like the 179 (people traveling locally could stay on the bottom, while people going to Seattle could go to the top deck).

      1. Obviously the first link should have read http://www.gotransit.com.

        I was aware of Community Transit’s use of double decker busses, but they are a small portion of the fleet. It may be time to invest some more resources in these types of busses since budgets & services getting cut, you would want to maxamize the use of the remaining service hours you do have & double decker busses can do that to a point.

      2. He’s talking about ST routes in Snohomish County like the 510, 512 et al. These are operated by Community Transit (who contracts them to First Transit, a private bus company). So it would be easy for them to run double-deckers like they’re already doing on CT routes. ST doesn’t have operation staff; it’s a planning and capital organization. ST’s Pierce County routes are operated by Pierce Transit, King County routes by Metro (and increasingly by Pierce Transit). and Sounder by BNSF.

      3. There are only a few areas whose volume require double-deckers. Each of these will have to be inspected to see if there are any low-lying overpasses or traffic lights or such stuff. Snohomish County is already taken care of. The other likely places are Bellevue, Redmond, and Federal Way. But double-talls can’t fit in the DSTT. They can probably fit in Federal Way and Redmond. They doubtless can’t fit on the 71/72/73 (DSTT, University Bridge, University Way, etc). And they may have trouble on Aurora.

        I get why the double deckers won’t fit into the transit tunnel, but won’t that issue be a non factor once all busses move to the streets above in 2016?

        Are the issues with Aurora avenue & university way & the bridge related to inclines, street withs or something else – curious.

      4. The University Bridge has low traffic lights and an overhead structure if I remember right. University Way has low traffic lights, those banners which may jut into the roadway, and a double-decker bus may overwhelm the ambience of the small street. Aurora may have low-lying traffic lights; it works for trucks but are double-talls higher than typical trucks?

      5. Mike, I was just on one of the CT buses this past week. I seem to remember being able to see the top of the semi-trailer next to the bus,

      6. Not to doubt what you say but I have to wonder if “dwell” times are such a problem why double-decker buses are in such wide-spread use in the UK. Thinking on it a bit more I wonder if “dwell” times would really be all that much more since if I was traveling in one of these buses and I knew that my stop was coming up shortly I would make my way down to the lower level so I could easily exit the bus. Heck on a regular 40 ft or 60 ft but I now make preparation on the previous stop where I will get off so I can quickly exit the bus. Then again some people are clueless witness those who get on the bus and do not have a pass to swipe or their fare ready to insert into the fare box.

      7. As a follow up, I took a look at the ADL site & found this –

        Enviro500 “Go-Anywhere” low height double deck The low height “Go-Anywhere” Enviro500 brings all the benefits of double deck operation to routes that weren’t previously suitable for double deck operation due to height restrictions.
        It’s equally at home as a city based transit bus or as a highly specified inter-urban commuter. It retains the same levels of passenger comfort as the standard height bus, and the lower roof profile has been achieved with no reduction in passenger headroom.

        •Proven in service across N. America
        •Low roof height opens upopportunities for new double deck routes
        •Highly specified commuter specification with 78 reclining seats
        •2 door transit option with 82 seats and almost 100 passengers in total
        •Assembled in the USA and Buy America compliant
        •Low roof height has been achieved with no reduction in passenger headroom
        •Economic and easy to maintain with familiar and top quality components including Cummins EPA10 engine, Allison, Voith or ZF gearbox and Dana axles
        •Comprehensive N. America support back-up systems
        •As easy to drive as a conventional single deck
        •All routes with ADL double decks have experienced increased ridership

        So the hight issues may not be a problem if this variant can clear the traffic lights as mentioned.

      8. Any word on whether the CT-operated routes to use the double-deckers will include 512? All the other CT-operated ST routes are single-direction-peak-only, and therefore, unusable to anyone visiting Snohomish County who doesn’t live there.

      9. Good point, dwell time issues could be mitigated by encouraging responsible and mature passenger behavior, ie, starting to walk to the bottom level about two blocks before the bus gets to your stop. Come to think of it, deboaring time is probably about the same as the huge MCI buses that Pierce Transit often operates on routes 574-578, and 590-594, which are in fact ideal for long express routes with few stops.

        But the MCI’s Achilles heel is wheelchairs. Double-deckers probably handle wheelchairs better.

      10. Even long-haul route spend more time loading and unloading passengers than it may at first appear. Consider the 594, for example, which spends more time each trip slogging through the downtowns of Seattle and Tacoma than actually driving between them.

    2. The big issue with double secrets is height clearance. Community transit has routes that it can’t operate these buses because of obstacles on that particular route. While it likely would work on most sound transit routes, the usefulness on metro is limited based on such obstacles. But it is something I’d like to see more of.

      1. CT double-decker drivers have told me that these buses, whose rear-wheel assemblies can shift the weight of the vehicle, have no trouble on snow covered roads-huge weakness of “artics”.

        I remember that in Chicago 60 years ago we had English double-deckers as mainstay fleet of Sheridan Road along the lake north of Downtown. Place with brutal winters. However, I’m pretty sure I also remember drivers telling my mom that winter winds gave them trouble.

        Of course, in Chicago, the winter winds off the prairies in the west would also cut the eyes out of a pedestrian’s head. We’d run from shelter to shelter, like warm store to CTA Elevated pillar. like soldiers under heavy fire.

        Any transit machine there had to be pretty tough. Curious how glue and plastic would hold up to that. One technical modernization event: in 1953, new fleets of PCC elevated and subway cars, and streetcars hit the rails.

        Aircraft-style riveted steel bodies were lighter and tougher than the older wood and iron cars. I think some of those streetcars are still in service elsewhere in the world. You can see the both versions of streetcars on the San Francisco historic line.Also at flight museum on every commercial plane from WWII to just recently.

        I do wonder how new construction will hold up. For me, that’s a serious test. It could also be that glue and composite will last as long or longer. Or be replaced sooner. Until truth is established, wonder if “What won WWII is good enough for me!”

        Got to use really-old-guy tone of voice, though.


      2. There are only a few areas whose volume require double-deckers. Each of these will have to be inspected to see if there are any low-lying overpasses or traffic lights or such stuff. Snohomish County is already taken care of. The other likely places are Bellevue, Redmond, and Federal Way. But double-talls can’t fit in the DSTT. They can probably fit in Federal Way and Redmond. They doubtless can’t fit on the 71/72/73 (DSTT, University Bridge, University Way, etc). And they may have trouble on Aurora.

    3. Don’t forget that in addition to checking to see if a route could handle a larger vehicle (double tall or artic) you also need to be sure that the operators base can handle them. Do you need to rebuild the maintenance shop to handle a double tall on a lift, or have bays long enough for a 60″ artic? Does the bus wash and fuel island need to be rebuilt to accommodate a taller coach?

      Lots of money in capital if you have to rebuild your base as well. I could easily see upwards of ten plus million dollars just to modify or rebuild the shop facilities.

    4. Here in Victoria, BC we have had the Enviro 500 double-deck buses running around on select routes for about 10 years. They were purchased to deal with a significant pass-up issue on runs serving our University. Because of restricted bus zones and a compact downtown articulated buses weren’t seen as practical.

      When they first came out, I was sure that BC Transit had totally taken leave of their senses due to the increased dwell time issue. In practice, it hasn’t proven to be much of a problem – people tend to self-select upstairs or down depending on their travel distance. I think people prefer downstairs because of the ease of alighting, but I like upstairs for the views and the quiet (less people, way less engine noise). As others have said, you tend to make your way downstairs when the bus is stopped at a light a few blocks before your stop.

      1. I’ve been on one double-decker in London. Since I didn’t know the area I took a night bus that shadowed an underground line, and stayed downstairs looking for landmarks (namely, Stockwell Station and road). There was a lot of space for standees around the stairs, which were in front. So I imagine Ed P is right; that the people upstairs are going to the far part of the line, and come down before their stop.

  3. I don’t know what it is about the “new” YouTube format but it’s really horrible.

    1. Maybe because resolution is mainly set for cat fur, either cute-fluffy or just-fell-in-the toilet texture. Also, look under “Crimean trolley bus” Wonderful video of 50-mile-long trolley line across a mountain range, And an action-flick of an army armored vehicle hitting one of those buses.

      Hope it wasn’t the one with the really cute Ukrainian stewardess and tour guide aboard, like in the first video. Can’t tell from You-Tube which side of present unpleasantness the workforce is on.

      Vladimir Putin has flown jets and taken a submarine to the bottom of Lake Baikal. But bet he can’t handle night shift on the Route 7. Or the DSTT this coming Thursday afternoon afternoon rush hour. C’mon, Vladimir! Win the bet and you get …how about right to incorporate every condo in Ballard away from the real estate industry?


    2. I think it has more to do with the fact that this video is obviously an old, pirated Discovery Channel recording…

  4. Thanks, Oran. Wish I’d had more metal shop in school. Some questions for the better-educated:

    1. How do fiberglass and glue stand up to age, impact, and fire as compared to metal and rivets?

    2. With materials and assembly so easy, why do designers find still find it impossible to adjust the result to plain human comfort? Why do drivers still have to look under the steering wheel to see the speedometer?

    And on our newest fleet, why does window-line ahead of the back door come up to the average passenger’s chin?

    3. With good manufacture so easy and economical, why does Breda get anymore contracts on Earth- especially from systems like Gothenburg, Sweden, who should know better?

    4. And re: above point, why are there so few bus and light rail manufacturers in the United States?

    5. Any chance we could start manufacturing our own vehicles here in Seattle- for our own use and for export?

    Mark Dublin

    1. As to number 3, AnsaldoBreda is not getting really any contracts now that the word is out about their crap quality. Only Miami and Honolulu have anything on order from them. The Honolulu order was for their basically successful driverless metro and was placed before the Fyra debacle in Holland. The Miami order for cars seems to have been made taking geographic location of the assembly into extreme consideration, which is exactly how Breda snagged the Tunnel buses order, by promising to build them (and all future orders for the North American Market) in Issaquah.

      As for the rest of the world, outside of Italy, the AnsaldoBreda order book is getting very thin.

    2. The answer to number 4 is simple. American-owned and located Rail car manufacturing did exist up until the late 1970’s (Pullman-Standard & Budd; and St. Louis Car until 1973) when the first increase in spending on trail transit vehicles began. But the US Government policy was to by then instead direct the funds that might have kept the U.S. rail car industry afloat to the Military-Industrial complex who were feeling the pinch from the draw-down in Vietnam.

      Thus we ended up with Boeing-Vertol, Rohr Industries (as well as Grumman and what is now United Technologies who both got plum train development contracts) taking home the cream and then deciding to get out of the business when Reagan upped spending on the Cold War.

      What we have left is Siemens who bought DuWAG and now have a permanent North American plant in Sacramento, Bombardier who have also become an aerospace contractor parallel to their moves into non-snow transportation (while shedding their original Skidoo and Seadoo product lines), CAF and Alstom who are able to set up shop in the remains of the once great U.S. rail car industry, and newer entrants from Asia like Kinki who are able to set up shop in any old warehouse.

      1. Bombardier also owns the corporate remains of Pullman and parts of Budd. Nobody is able to use the Pullman name on a car these days, and I assume that at some point they plan to create a line of products under that name at some point.

        Also, for what it is worth, GE is working on taking over Alstom so we might see their name on passenger equipment again.

      2. Regarding Bombardier and Pullman, what about these guys? It seems like you should be able to use the Pullman name on an authentic restored Pullman car, although I did not see that word in their restoration photo gallery.

        On the other hand, an authentic restoration of a Pullman car wouldn’t have upgraded HVAC and electrical, diesel generators, fire alert and suppression systems, Wireless internet. etc.

      3. AW, you are mixing up the Pullman-Standard Rail Car company with the Pullman operation, the name of which was recently brought back into service.

        One is a car maker, the other is a tour operator.

        Both can trace their roots back to George Pullman, because he invented the idea of offering this kind of special service and then decided he had to also build the cars for it, if they were going to be up to snuff for what he wanted to provide..

      4. When the company I work for needs data on just about any Pullman or Budd car built prior to, I think, 1968, it is Bombardier we have to go to. Their buyout of all the paperwork for the car designs, even fairly old ones, was that complete.

        Oddly, the old Budd affiliated Mafersa plant in Brazil wound up in Alstom hands.

    3. Mark,

      I am sure the politicians would froth at the mouth for any locally produced vehicles as they did with the tunnel buses (who Breda promised would be the first in a long line of vehicles produced for N. America in Issaquah and exported, if they got more orders):

      The fact is the business of assembling transit vehicles can be transient (as it is in the AnsaldoBreda model) or fixed (as it is in the Siemens model) and then the question is, would you rather ride on a vehicle assembled by someone with experience and expertise or would you prefer some temporary local usually-minimum-wage jobs? Guess which one the decision makers chose, while they drive themselves around in their German (and pahlese NOT Alabama, etc.!)-made luxury car?

      1. Erik, thanks for the research and the info. If “no more Breda” is true, there should be an international holiday, and a massive aid program to help the Oslo Norway streetcar feet replace the screeching junk they bought in 1995.

        And reminder that US politicians would still show enthusiasm- though rabies also seriously warps once’s judgment- for building transit equipment here can also be a heartening revelation. All they have to do is give our country the mandate and wherewithal to become the world’s top manufacturing power we used to be.

        Rather than the land of plutocratic speculation and hopless poverty that we’ve become. And also the training, the wages, and the union protection our workers need to return our country to the First World.

        Reason I’m confident this will happen is that fairly soon, people Oran’s and Martin’s age will realize how deeply and permanently they’ll always been in debt their whole lives under present system. If you’re anywhere near their age, message to you is the same: get active in politics at the grass roots level, either major party or start your own. Facebook won’t take a precinct, but five voters will. Under present conditions fifty will take district.

        That’s basically how the rabid southern Democrats got the Republican Party. So like they say: “Sauce for the buzzard is sauce for the goose.”


  5. Since bicycle commuting is growing in Seattle and tacitly being encouraged by the city, should we now start considering requiring some type of bicycle commuting and safety class, where things like defensive riding is taught? I’m not even talking about licensing or fees or anything like that. I not even concerned with how it would be enforced or verified at this point. Just a mandatory safe riding class. Because if bicycles are going to be mixed in with and riding along side other traffic, does it make any sense for one type of operator of a vehicle to be required to take a safety class, but another, ever growing segment not be required to take it?

    1. Yes, there are lessons available (for free) from various organizations such as this one:

      I am certain your local bike retailer can hook you up with others.

      The Washington DOL should also list these locations on their website as they do for future car-addicts:
      but that would go against their true mission of increasing motor vehicle sales.

      1. Eric, I just clicked on your wabikes link. I clicked the Education tab, and it was all about how children can ride their bikes to school. I’m talking about required safety classes for adults riders, teaching them how to commute safely. Yes, I know different places offer voluntary classes. I’m asking should we require them for bike commuters? If not, why not?

      2. We don’t require these of motorists who operate multi-ton machines past our dwelling units. How can we mandate them for bicycle users?

      3. Erik, are you saying that drivers of cars and trucks, as part of their license test, aren’t required to learn about safety?

      4. Erik, people who are driving cars and trucks have had to study and pass a test in order to drive a vehicle. They answer safety and rules of the road questions. It’s not a voluntary test if you want to legally drive a vehicle. If you are arguing that it’s a bad idea to require bicyclists to take riding safety class, I’m asking why that is?

      5. They may have to study, but it is not required that they take any classes.

        Motorists just have to pass a test.

        Since licensing a cyclists is silly and impractical, why are you requiring them to be taking classes? Unless you want to require motorists to take classes?

    2. According to some video I saw on the Internet about how the Netherlands is a perfect cycling paradise Dutch kids take cycling safety classes in elementary school. Sounds about right.

    3. Should the suburbs do this too? Otherwise, what about suburban cyclists riding into the city, like one Samuel, who would not have had the training.

      1. Maybe, but no local city is encouraging people to ride as much as Seattle, with bike lanes, bike paths, bike boxes, sharrows, cycle tracks, etc. Don’t try to sidetrack me by mentioning other cities. I know that trick. Should Seattle require bike safety classes? It’s a simple question. If the answer is no, they shouldn’t require them, how come?

      2. When Seattle requires all motorists entering the city to have taken special safety classes regarding how one is to operate a motor vehicle in a dense urban environment, then yes, the city can also require classes of bicyclists.

        Until then a simple brochure should do the trick.

      3. For the troll who insists on making us state the obvious:

        Because bad driving can kill people a lot more easily than bad bicycle riding.

    4. I get the sense that officials in Washington are reluctant to legitimize the bicycle because then they might have to meet the demands for segregated roadways, better enforcement and so on.

      Right now they can remain mum and keep them in a limbo where there are few rights, little enforcement against motorists.

      As far as safety classes, the Cascade Bicycle group has presenters who will do a very, very comprehensive talk no only on vehicular cycling safety but on policies and statistics. I had one of them come by and talk before the Kent Bicycle Advisory Board and it was extremely illuminating (example factoid: most bike accidents are not due to interactions with cars).

      1. Thank you for an honest and sincere answer to my question. The other commenters are just being recalcitrant, contrarian and argumentative. Am I the only serious person here?

    5. “… does it make any sense for one type of operator of a vehicle to be required to take a safety class, but another, ever growing segment not be required to take it?”

      I think you’re onto something, Sam, though I think you’re focusing on too few road users. Perhaps we should focus on the vast number of automobile drivers out there in control 2-4 ton hunks of steel, glass, and rubber with vast amounts of kinetic energy that far exceeds all of the buses and trucks operating on public roadways.

      Since you are so concerned with safety, surely you’d support requiring that these average human operators of average skills be subject to the same random drug testing, stringent anti-texting/personal electronic device rules, health examinations every other year, and peripheral vision tests that commercial drivers are.

      With over 30,000 fatalities due to motor vehicle crashes per year, imagine the potential improvements in safety!

      1. One of the telltale signs of a troll is extraneous comments or arguments. Don’t feed the troll.

      2. Motorists kill and maim thousands of Americans every year.

        More than any other non-disease source, including guns and terrorism.combined.

        Cyclists? Not so much.

        Why should cyclist have to meet standards motorists do not have to do?

      3. Is it possible that bicyclist by routinely failing to follow lawfully mandated rules of the road or by reasonable and common sense defensive measures (even if not legally required) contribute to the thousands of deaths you state happen as caused by cars?

      4. I actually think that cars should be segregated based on performance and size. We already require an endorsement for motorcycles. It’s silly to assume someone who can pass a driving test in a Grand Am is also qualified to drive a Ferrari or a motorhome.

        There’s a system a lot like this for aircraft, where airplanes with features like retractable landing gear or controllable-pitch propellors are considered “complex” and require an additional rating above the basic pilot’s license.

    6. Erik, you don’t seem like a serious person to me. It seems like you are just being defensive, resistant and argumentative. But I’ll try this one last time with you, then after that, I’ll dismiss you as a troll if you continue with your petulant arguing …. It doesn’t have to be a class. It could just be a required test cyclists have to pass, that asks various rules of the road and safety and defensive biking questions. Good idea or not?

      1. The classes are there. You can take them if you wish.

        What’s next? Required classes for pedestrians?

    7. For example, here’s a practice test question from the WSDOL, that potential motorists would have to learn about to answer correctly. Maybe it would be a good idea to force cyclists to have to study safe biking rules and rules of the road, then have to pass a test. IDK. I’m just asking if everyone thinks it would be a … how do you say in english … a prudent idea? (english is my sixth language. And I am fluent in 24 languages. I apologize if you cannot understand me). Here’s the question:

      To change lanes, you should:
      -Check your mirrors, signal, and change lanes.
      -Signal, check your mirrors, check your blind spot in the direction you plan to move, and change lanes.
      -Signal, check your mirrors, and change lanes.
      -Signal and change lanes.

      1. It’s a multiple choice test. You have a 1 in 4 chance of getting the question right. The wording often leads the test-taker to know which is the correct answer by length and sentence structure.

        Again, tell me what requirement there is to take a class before taking the test?

        Because there is none. So why should there be one for bicyclists?

      2. yet more proof that its easier to be given a drivers license in the US than given candy on Halloween… you will all be comforted to know that despite failing my vision test for getting a new license I was still given a new license.

    8. I’d be more concerned with ensuring that the engineering of our roads be made by people with the slightest understanding of how vehicles on the road work in reality. No one with any such training could have created the way bicyclists are shunted around on Alaskan Way or Second Avenue. There are dead people because of them.

      1. If mandatory cycling tests that educated riders on defensive riding saved even one rider, do you think it would be worth it?

      2. No. Because you could never demonstrate the proof of your premise. If we spent a billion dollars on cyclist education instead of whatever else we might spend a billion dollars on and it saved one life, so what?

  6. Hydrogen fuel cell SUV clocks record mileage

    A fuel cell version of the Hyundai ix35 – otherwise known as the Tucson – has recorded a record distance on a single tank of hydrogen.

    Mechanically identical to the Tucson Fuel Cell that is currently available in California for the not insignificant sum of $499 per month, the ix35 Fuel Cell was driven 435 miles from Oslo in Norway to Copenhagen, the Danish capital.

    The team that undertook the journey, independent ‘eco-pioneers Marius Bornstein and Arnt Hartvig, were at the wheel for 10 hours, making for an impressive average speed of 47.22 mph.


    1. Hydrogen has poor energy density and would likely be made from fossil fuels. Not a good choice with regards to stewarding our environment.

  7. On Saturday at 7pm I went to West Seattle for dinner. In spite of the problems RapidRide may have at rush hour or at times of congestion, it’s wonderful off-hours and has made more parts of the city accessible without having to deal with half-hourly buses.

    My first goal was to find that excellent bakery I’d been to once. I assumed it would be closed evenings but I could at least get its hours and determine its name and location for later. It was south of the Junction so I went one more stop to Findlay Street. That stop was some ten blocks down, so I was glad that Metro put wide stop spacing at least somewhere. I walked back up, enjoying the variety of architecture and lack of setbacks. I found the place, Bakery Nouveau, just a block or two south of the Junction, and it was open! (Till 9pm weekends.) So I had a fancy sandwich and dessert there.

    Now if only the bus to Alki didn’t drop to hourly on Sundays. Or holidays like today.

  8. It is fascinating to see how a bus it made. Few people think about how it call comes together. I recently saw a program about how an RV is made – interesting stuff.

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