Table 1: Quantity of Buses

51 new buses–with options of up to 92 more–are soon coming to the Puget Sound. Sound Transit recently released a Request for Proposals for a joint procurement of double deck transit buses. This joint procurement includes Sound Transit, who currently operates five double deck buses; Community Transit, who operates 45; and Kitsap Transit who evaluated one last year. Presumably Kitsap Transit’s testing went well, despite a driver’s inadvertent attempt to wedge it underneath the overhang at the Bremerton Ferry Terminal.

All three agencies have used the Alexander Dennis Enviro500, which is one of the few double deckers is currently able to meet the contract’s stipulation of the FTA’s “Buy America” regulations, stating that the vehicles must be assembled in the United States and be assembled with 60% domestic content.

Four of the vehicles being purchased by Sound Transit are funded with a Washington State Regional Mobility Grant, and the first 16 vehicles ordered by Sound Transit will hit the streets no later than July 1, 2017. Schedules for Community Transit and Kitsap Transit will depend on contract negotiations.

While the RFP does not specify which routes each agency plans to run them on, based on past usage they can be expected to run on commuter routes.

If you’re looking for some weekend reading, the 272 page RFP details nearly every aspect of every component of the vehicles.

58 Replies to “51 New Double Talls Coming to Puget Sound”

  1. Any chance that any of these will be used on an all-day route, such as the 512? Or will the schedule continue to require that you move to Snohomish County to be able to feasibly ride one?

    1. They’ve got them assigned to some of the 402 runs that go to and from Lynnwood Transit Center into downtown Seattle. You could take 511 one direction and a 402 the other way.

      1. Right, but for someone living in Seattle, that’s still schedule that is only usable if you ride the double tall just for the sake of riding the double tall. It doesn’t work some someone actually trying to get anywhere useful.

      2. There’s stuff around the Everett station that’s useful to someone living in Seattle?

      3. ST’s Double Tall is on the 512. It sounds like you want to ride it without admitting to being a transit geek ;-)

        If you need a rational reason to take a ride, go get a beer at Big E Ales in Lynnwood. Short walk from the TC on the Interurban Trail and there are Double Tall’s galore with the rest of CT’s funky fleet of buses.

      4. You could use it as a way of getting to Edmonds – though you’d have to change at Lynnwood since the only double talls for Edmonds are southbound morning runs.

        At least Edmonds has a decent walkable downtown, a decent selection of restaurants, a park on the waterfront, and there are a couple of very short trails for bird watching in the Edmonds Marsh.

      5. “There’s stuff around the Everett station that’s useful to someone living in Seattle?”

        There is an Amtrak Station. Coming from the U-district, it is actually faster overall (and cheaper) to take the 512 to Everett and ride Amtrak north from there than go get on the train at King St. Station.

    2. ST has them assigned to the 512 as well. Of course, with only five in service and with a route that operates at 15 min. intervals, there’s a remote chance you’ll score one when taking the 512. But they’re on there.

    3. Don’t be silly, if Kitsap Transit is getting them obviously you can move to Kitsap County too! :)

      I actually rode on the top deck of a Double Tall to Mariner P&R while on a multi-day exploration of the Interurban.

    4. I’ve ridden several 512 runs with double deckers, so they are out there.

      So far, I’ve seen (and ridden) two of the five delivered vehicles,

    1. That’s an excellent suggestion, Mic. No question the couplers would eliminate the need for following distance, thereby increasing lane capacity. When San Francisco MUNI started its subway-surface LRT service, trains with cars with different destinations would run through the tunnel as a single train, but uncouple at portals, where each car would go out on its own track.

      The problem with running coupled buses is that the frames aren’t generally designed for the strains caused by the structure being stretched lengthwise. Or so we were told when this idea was proposed for the DSTT.

      However, and I don’t know if they still do this, but Russian systems would often couple two 40′ trolleybuses together with a tow-bar, with power cords attached to the outsides of the couplers. The poles of the trailing bus were raised. From pics, passenger loads would get our most packed routes canceled for lack of ridership.

      I often think it would be a good idea to bring Russian aircraft and transit to this country to study how to make a simple machine that uses abusive conditions and handling for fuel. Also good for extending the Route 7 across the Cascades to Ellensburg. In tribute to the 50-mile long trolley-line across the mountains in Crimea.

      But take heart, Mic. England, and some of the Commonwealth countries, did indeed at one time use double-talls with trolley-poles. I think through a least one tunnel, So there is a precedent, whose advantages include huge numbers of kids demanding that parents take them for a ride in the new tunnel so they can sit upstairs.

      Also a historic jazz reference. In “My Analyst Told Me,” the singer recalls being teased for demanding to know where the driver was for the double-decker’s top level. We’ll have to post notice somewhere aboard.


      1. I guess baggage cart technology, as seen in every airport, would not be scalable to double talls. Oh well, Seattle could have had another transit feather in their caps.
        Gotta love the Russian designers. “Think Tank” takes on a whole new meaning.

    2. I was in Sydney over the Christmas break. And all their subway cars are double tall. Image sounder meets bart. 5 seats across as well.

    1. For Metro, I would suspect there’s a plethora of con’s to consider: 1.) longer load/off-load time on busy routes (walking in the stairwell is prohibited while the bus is in motion – at least that’s CT”s policy.
      2.) Security. One could image all the shady stuff that would unfold in the upper deck – despite the cameras. 3.) Limited usage. Many of Seattle’s streets have low-hanging trees. I heard that’s why CT never used the Double Talls on the UW routes.

      1. I think that in London especially, both levels are patrolled by gentlemen with tall hats and night-sticks who immediately end trouble by saying either: ” ‘Ullo, ‘ullo, ‘ullo, and wot ‘ave we ‘ere?” and “‘Ere now, wot’s all this?” OK for buses, which occasionally go by pubs. But wouldn’t work with our LINK fare inspectors uniforms.


      1. That answer strikes me as circular. They don’t have the maintenance bases to support double talls because Metro does not run double talls. If Metro ran them, Metro would set up a maintenance base to support them.

        The sort of routes for which the double talls are ideal (true expresses) will become fewer and fewer as Link expands. But there has been some interest in setting up Pierce Transit to maintain double talls for ST Express service around the time Lynnwood Link makes the CT double-tall fleet moot.

        I hope Metro is at least looking at the possibilities and costing them out. But which routes would be candidates for double-talls in the long run?

      2. I feel like the 150 would be a good candidate. It’s currently a bendy bus every 15 minutes, but it could be a double tall instead. It’s a flat route mostly, with only one major loading point in the middle (southcenter).

      3. The 150 would not be a good pick because it makes too many stops outside of downtown Seattle. Since the bus can’t move when people are in the stairway it really serves a disadvantage on that route. East base would be a good pick for some of its commuter routes there with limited stops as would the 577 route.

    2. The double talls most likely won’t work on a lot of roads in Seattle, esp out in the neighborhoods, due to their height. Not because they are are too tall to fit under things but more likely because of the older roads with crowns in the center of the roadways or generally uneven surfaces that would cause the bus to lean over the curb. Without major changes to roads or bus stop infrastructure, or tree trimming/removel, or utilities updates, there would likely be a lot of collisions between the upper deck of the bus and trees and utility poles. Even the regular height 40 footers and articulated buses have this issue as it is in a lot of places.

      They could probably use them on long haul routes that stick to major thoroughfares, but that would create an issue with the flexibility of the fleet.

      The articulated buses take up so much space, it would be great to replace them with the double talls.

      1. The sort of routes for which the double talls are ideal (true expresses)

        Huh? Doesn’t London Transit run the largest fleet of Double Deckers in the world? DT London is the antipathy of an express route.

        with crowns in the center of the roadways or generally uneven surfaces that would cause the bus to lean over the curb. Without major changes to roads or bus stop infrastructure, or tree trimming/remove, or utilities updates, there would likely be a lot of collisions between the upper deck of the bus and trees and utility poles.

        They’re not any taller than an Atlas Van Lines moving truck. Anyway, the place they make sense is DT where they take up half the road space. A problem with long load/unload problems seems to be uniquely American.

      2. Bernie,

        Everyone in London has an Oyster Card. Long load/unload problems aren’t “uniquely American”. They’re uniquely “cash payer”.

      3. Also, before Oyster became widespread, Central London was a pay-before-you-board zone with ticket machines at stops.

      4. Same with Singapore, which has urban stop spacing pretty much even on their runs to the more “lightly” populated areas on the north side of the island. The double deckers were pretty ubiquitous there. Of course, they are fully smart card as well. This had to be easy for the people to switch to, since the fare structure is (or was; it’s been a few years) insanely byzantine and dealt with minute changes per km that often would have required payment in amounts ending in pennies. I’m not sure how that was handled prior to the smart card’s adoption.

        Plus even 6 or 7 years ago you could use cash balances on your EZ-Link card to shop at 7-11s and the like….

    3. In addition to what everyone else has said, there is also the possibility of reduced flexibility. Metro already has a number of subfleets in their highest capacity coaches, the 60 footers. (Hush mode enabled, RapidRide, high floor gilligs, electric trollies, etc.)

      Right now there is capacity for some assignments outside of subfleets that have been clearly defined. A hush mode coach can run a RapidRide route. Or a RapidRide route could be run by one of the High Floor Gilligs if it came down to running it with that or not running it at all. If Metro had a set of double talls they’d have yet another restriction to manage, specifically clearance height by route, and this would have to be verified every so often.

      There are benefits to fleet diversification as well as fleet simplification. (If you look at the airline business both cases have been made and work well depending on the business. But vehicles that have exceptional requirements are harder to use, such a the A380 because of its wingspan. Its one of the reason the 777X will have folding wingtips, to stay within the wingtip box.)

      The other conundrum with Metro is they prefer to keep their coaches for a long time, eventually only placing them into peak service. The routes that would be most suited to a double decker are the commuter routes that are peak only, but in many cases they’d be less ideal for all day service.

    4. Metro has many demands right now, and is struggling to get enough drivers and buses for Prop 1 service, and now the new RapidRide lines will be coming in a planning minute, and North Link and Lynnwood Link and Eastside restructures, and preserving the skeletal suburban service without supplemental funds, and finishing the trolley fleet replacement, and other things, so that Double Talls are probably not at the top of its priorities. Also, they may intrinsically make more sense for ST and CT since they travel longer express distances, which are expensive, so getting twice the passengers into one bus is a larger cost savings for them.

  2. I dream of a day with Double Tall’s filling the streets, featuring Double ORCA readers enabling Double Speed, Double Door boarding!

    Be interesting to see how the DT’s role changes as Lynnwood Link opens as they’ll still be part of the CT/ST fleet. They’d make an unique and possibly challenging local/feeder bus with their higher load/unload times. Perhaps they could become the linchpin of a bigger, north-reaching frequent feeder system terminating at Lynnwood TC.

    1. I wonder if ST and CT will have a fleet of useless assets in ten years, as I can’t see them as being necessary for local feeders. But since it’s coming so soon their planners must have taken this into account, and either plan to redeploy them somewhere or sell them.

      1. From this RFP:

        Buses shall have a minimum expected life of twelve (12) years or 500,000 miles, whichever comes first

      2. And how many miles do you think these buses rack up on the odometer in a year? If a bus just does 6 round trips a day, weekdays only, from Seattle to Everett it’s 100,000mi/yr. Average age of a bus in service for Metro is 7 years. They take a beating and surprisingly it’s actually the chassis that determines the life of the bus. Best bang for the buck is to sell the beast while it still has some useful service life left to some rural transit agency. That could be a problem with a double tall but I’m convinced that the market to tour operators more than offsets that. We’ve got chop top double deckers hauling touristas around DT Seattle.

      3. Or a small college town. Davis and San Luis Obispo in CA operate double deckers. Maybe WTA or Pullman Transit? Or even Ellensburg?

      4. FTA regulations state transit buses should have service lives of 15 years before being replaced. (This is for buses purchased with federal funds, which common.)

      5. Any 15 year old buses in the Metro fleet? As the saying goes, it’s not the years it’s the mileage. I should know being of low resale value on both counts :=

    2. Mike B,

      Great idea there! Invest a bunch of bus hours to bring people from outside the Sound Transit service area to Lynnwood in order to fill up the Link trains such that folks in Seattle can’t get on them during the peak hours.

      Way to go cowboy!

      1. Well, Community Transit is more than justified in doing it because, like it or not, these people are in Community Transit service area.

      2. If the trains are full, then they need to run more trains.

        I’ve been on a few Skagit Transit 90x that the driver was close to telling people to get off because they don’t/didn’t allow standees on the freeway expresses.

        Maybe if they get surplus double talls they can start a three way cooperative effort to run them Bellingham to Everett.

      3. asdf, Glenn,

        So all the complaining about “Spine Destiny” that people here on STB — including both of you from time to time — is for naught? Fill up the trains in Boonieville and let the proles in Seattle ride Metro! “The peasants have no train? Can they not eat this lovely diesel exhaust?”

        They’re the ones who brought the vote for ST2 home and will undoubtedly be the biggest “Yes” vote in ST3 win or lose. But we’re BART del Norte, suckah!

        It’s pretty obvious that’s the objective; ST tipped its hand when it “decided” to send all trains to Lynnwood rather than running turnbacks to Northgate.

      4. @ Anandakos — Relax, have a home brew. Even with very good feeder service, the trains won’t be packed. We really want to encourage as much service out there as possible. We should be using feeder buses as much as possible. A lot of these buses may be inappropriate, but they would make a lot of sense for longer hauls. Everett to Lynnwood is still a long haul, and there would still be enough service there to keep the buses busy.

        But that still isn’t enough to swamp the system. BART has feeder buses and entire systems (other trains and whatnot) to feed it, but it still doesn’t get that many people outside the core area (San Fransisco/Oakland/Berkeley). Because at the end of the day, not that many people are making that trip. Everett is a giant, sprawling area, and it still isn’t that big (around 100,000). Not everyone is trying to get into Seattle every day, either. Even many of the people who do work in Seattle will end up driving. Many just prefer driving (and it stands to reason that those who do prefer driving live in an area like this) but many will have trouble with the “last mile” on both ends, no matter how much feeder bus service we add. From say, Lynnwood High School to SPU is going to be awkward as hell for a very long time no matter what we build. So it is really optimistic (or pessimistic, depending on your point of view) to think that these trains will be crush loaded by Snohomish County riders.

        But if we have decent ridership to Snohomish County, then we will have decent ridership to places like 130th and 145th. So far as I know, there are no turnback stations between Northgate and Lynnwood. So if there isn’t ridership to justify high frequency to Lynnwood, we won’t get high frequency to NE 130th and NE 145th, which means that higher density, higher transit riding places like Bitter Lake and Lake City are screwed. Their entire benefit from Link requires a transfer, and if the trains aren’t running frequently, then they get hammered more than anyone.

        So bring on the buses to Lynnwood! Run that thing every three minutes. Or spend the money and run it every two minutes.

        Remember, we’re all in this together.

      5. I think there is a market for Skagit Transit to buy Double Talls and use them on the Burlington-Mt. Vernon-Everett 90X. I intend to raise the issue when I comment on the Skagit Transit TDP in the summer.

        There also MAY be a new Double Tall market from Camano Island to Everett and possibly Lynnwood. Stay tuned.

      6. RossB;

        As to:

        bring on the buses to Lynnwood! Run that thing every three minutes. Or spend the money and run it every two minutes.

        Remember, we’re all in this together.

        Thanks, I agree. If ridership justifies it, yeah light rail every two minutes. I just like that idea.

        Folks here at STB also need to remember we need each other. You need guys like me in the hinterlands to push our legislators to support transit, to be open to concerns about transit and we need you guys to help move transit along.

        Whether we like it or not, nobody can go-it-alone on transit.

    1. A ton of peak-only service to Bainbridge and Bremerton ferry terminals, not to mention the refurbished “Worker-Driver buses” that are basically extra large vanpools operated by CDL-owning military personnel.

    1. Have you tried asking Community Transit? They’re the ones operating it, so they should know; and they’ve been open to advertising which commuter runs have Double-Talls so far.

    1. In Northwest style, the agency named its bus The Double Tall and the sight of it caused double takes around Snohomish County and the streets of Seattle.
      Make That 23 Double Talls, Please

      There was also some mention of it being a nod to the Starbucks HQ located in Seattle.

  3. Interesting thing CT driver told me about the double-deckers: they handle very well in snow. Considering what happens to artics in these conditions, these machines could be very useful on heavy routes in a blizzard.


  4. So I am curious about capacity on these things, compared to our other buses. I think this would make for an interesting post (or even a wiki entry). Just having a chart with the various buses that are part of our various systems in the region would be interesting. The buses can be configured different ways, and that changes the number of people who can sit versus stand. But I would just go with however we have them configured.

    The tricky part is measuring standing room. I would have a column for square feet, as well as what the standard is for this in terms of people). Obviously it varies, but I think that would make for interesting reading. If memory serves the trolleys, for example, aren’t much bigger than some of our buses, but they are configured for more standing.

    Are these the opposite? Do these have lots of seats, but less room to stand. Is the headroom lower?

    Given the extra time to board and exit, I think it makes sense that these are for express runs. If this favors sitting over standing, then that would make sense as well.

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