Last month, the first pair of 18 new Swift bus rapid transit buses entered service on the Blue Line, as part of the line’s return to 10-minute weekday frequencies. The buses were ordered for the Green Line, which will debut next year, and have a few differences from the decade-old coaches that run on the Blue Line today. This being the transit blog, I naturally stalked these new buses for a quick look inside.
The new buses, based on the New Flyer Xcelsior series, is slightly shorter due to its flat front (shaving 2 ft. from the original’s 62 ft.). The shorter length means that the doors are slightly off from the “welcome mats” painted into the platforms at stations, but it’s within a reasonable margin of error. The Xcelsior buses have the same interior features as the first-generation fleet, including the all-important rear door bicycle racks that speed up dwell times, but its seats are arranged in a slightly different manner, with a mix of aisle-facing and forward-facing seats above the third axle.
Almost every seat comes equipped with a USB port for charging, a popular bus feature that is rarely seen in the Seattle region. Community Transit plans to include under-seat or seat-side ports in all of its future buses, including Double Tall commuter buses and an upcoming order of 26 articulated buses.
The new fleet comes with another major change: unlike their diesel-electric hybrid predecessors, these buses are all-diesel. Community Transit explains that its own studies found that all-diesel buses emit the same amount of particulate emissions that hybrids do in normal operations. There is, however, a noticeable difference in maintenance and acquisition costs that far outweigh the fuel savings offered by hybrids.
The agency is also looking into electric battery buses, but has yet to find a model that satisfies its all-day operating requirement of 250 miles on one charge. The original Swift fleet is scheduled to be replaced by an order of 15 buses in 2023, which could be bundled into an order for additional buses to cover the Orange Line and the Blue Line’s extension to Shoreline North/185th Station.