A new batch of New Flyer XDE60 articulated buses

This past Wednesday, TransLink started to put the newest batch of buses out onto the streets, in particular, Surrey streets. The transit enthusiast in me could not resist seeking out that new bus smell.

S15003 front left
S15003 taking recovery at Newton Exchange
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The previous batch had a light grey front

These buses are the same model as the previous set of articulated buses back in 2013. However, this new batch has the “charcoal top” livery instead of the light grey which I think looks much better and fitting with the rest of the fleet.  Like the last batch, these buses are fully air-conditioned.  (Recently, TransLink announced that all future bus orders will have air conditioning standard.)  These will be great to ride in the summer!

Surrey hasn’t seen a new bus delivery in ages (better transit enthusiasts can quote the exact date); they’ve always been getting “hand-me-down” buses from other depots in the area.  I guess it is a show of good faith for further development of transit in the South of Fraser area and the #96 B-Line corridor.  Twelve of these new buses will serve the #96 B-Line while the remaining eleven in the order will be distributed to other articulated bus routes in the region.

Have you had a chance to ride the new buses?  Leave your impressions in the comments!

Fun ways to get from Richmond to Downtown Vancouver on transit

I commute from Richmond to Downtown Vancouver every day for work.  Normally I take the Canada Line, which is a quick and reliable way to and from work.  As much as I like trains, some days it just seems boring; after all, the majority of the ride is underground.

So I tasked myself to find five different ways to get to work (potentially one for each day of the week), if I wanted to take a break from the Canada Line.  Let’s assume we’re commuting from Richmond Centre to Waterfront.  Obviously we’re not optimizing for travel time.

Option 1: 403, 480, 44

A nice ride to UBC then along 4th Avenue, Burrard Street Bridge downtown.  If you’re lucky, you can complete this entire route on articulated buses.

Option 2: 407, 22

I’d probably consider this one the most unscenic one, but it only involves one transfer and is a bus-only route.  Probably a good one for napping.

Option 3: 430, Expo/Millennium Line

An express bus to Metrotown, then a ride on the SkyTrain downtown.  If you’re extremely lucky, you may find a seat at the front of the SkyTrain.

Option 4: 410, Expo/Millennium Line

Kind of the same as the previous option except this one includes a highway run along Highway 91, but no express through the city.  This has a longer SkyTrain ride too, which also includes passing the SkyTrain yard.

Option 5: 407, 480, 17, 50

And finally the crazy bus-only route.  Almost guaranteed to ride four different types of buses – a New Flyer 40 footer on the 407, an articulated bus on the 480, a trolley bus on the 17 and most likely a Novabus on the 50.

Of course these options aren’t exhaustive; there are many other combinations that can loop through all parts of town.  But these are the ones off the top of my head that balance being interesting and getting to work in a reasonable amount of time.

The end is near for Whistler’s hydrogen fuel cell buses

1006 hydrogen fuel cell bus

In one week, Whistler’s fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses will be parked as their five-year pilot project ends. Nova Bus diesel buses will be replacing them as of April 1st, 2014.

The fleet of twenty buses is currently the largest fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses operating in the world. The fuelling station for the fleet is also the world’s largest hydrogen filling station.

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A hydrogen fuel cell bus at Whistler’s Gondola Transit Exchange.

The hydrogen fuel cell buses were brought to Whistler by a five-year demonstration project sponsored by the federal, provincial and municipal governments, and the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association. The buses arrived in late 2009 and the fleet commenced full operation in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The hydrogen fuel cell is a green technology as the only by-product is water. That means there are no harmful fumes emitted from the bus! In addition, the efficiency of the fuel cell is about 60-70%, which is significantly higher than the average diesel engine at 30-40%.

Hydrogen tanks
The world’s largest hydrogen fuelling station at Whistler Transit Centre.

One of the difficulties for the project was getting the hydrogen fuel from a green source. Up to this day, hydrogen is trucked in from a supplier based in Quebec. Although it is possible to produce the hydrogen fuel closer to home, using non-renewable resources to perform the electrolysis would negate the environmental friendliness of using the hydrogen fuel cell in the first place.

The hydrogen fuel cell demonstration project is deemed a success. The technology is still at its infancy so there’s high hope for it in the future. Although the hydrogen buses were environmentally friendly, the overall operating cost per kilometre far exceeded those of diesel or CNG buses. As the technology matures and the hydrogen infrastructure expands, hopefully the operating costs will decrease to something comparable to diesel or CNG.

For the twenty buses in Whistler though, let’s hope to see them repowered with a different engine (compressed natural gas maybe?) so that they don’t need to see the scrap heap so soon.

A Nova Bus diesel bus on the left, and the New Flyer hydrogen fuel cell bus on the right
A Nova Bus diesel bus on the left, and the New Flyer hydrogen fuel cell bus on the right.

Links

Transit highlights from my Toronto trip

TTC #9004

While I was in Toronto these past few days, I got a chance to see two of Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) newest transit vehicles.

For those unfamiliar with public transportation in the Greater Toronto Area, a number of transit authorities provide local transit service within different regions in the GTA.  The TTC provides transportation services within the Toronto proper, including the subways, streetcars and bus service.  I suppose a more detailed introduction to the different public transportation services would be ideal in a separate post.

The articulated buses

The first were the Nova Bus LFS articulated buses. These buses, introduced mid-last year, were the first articulated buses in the TTC fleet since 2003. This one was seen on the #7 Bathurst line.

TTC #9004
TTC 2013 Nova Bus LFS Articulated Bus #9004 on the #7 Bathurst line

I must give credit to an Android app called Transit Now Toronto for helping me find out when the articulated buses were coming down the line. I actually did not realize that TTC had real-time arrival data available, so actually I spent half the time trying to find these buses the “old-school way”.

The new streetcars

The second was one of the new streetcars. This was a bit of a lucky catch as I was at Bathurst station originally looking for the Nova Bus articulated buses. When I was coming up from the subway as I saw the streetcar demonstrator pulling through the streetcar loop. I would have liked to chase it further for better photos, but my time was constrained.

TTC #4401
TTC 2013 Bombardier Flexity Outlook Demonstrator #4401 at Bathurst Station

The new Toronto streetcars are built by Bombardier, and are similar to the ones that were demonstrated here in Vancouver during the Olympics. A fleet of 204 Flexity Outlook units have been ordered and are replacing the aging fleet of CLRV and ALRV streetcars that were built in the 1970s and 1980s.

The weather

On an unrelated topic, the weather in Toronto was very forgiving while I was there. I was hoping to see some real snow fall, but the weather turned out to be “relatively warm” (by Toronto standards); on some days it was even sunny. So before my flight back, my cousin took me to the largest (manmade) snow mound he knew of. I climbed on top of it just for kicks.

Me on snow
Me on a mound of snow. Yes apparently it’s all snow, I’m assuming the land here was flat before they started piling the snow up here.

New Xcelsior buses hit Vancouver streets

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12007 on #49 on the first day of revenue service

It has been quite a while since we’ve received new buses, especially a new model, here in Metro Vancouver.  This past Monday, the newest buses of the fleet, New Flyer Xcelsior XDE60s, commenced revenue service on the #49.

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A West Vancouver XD40

West Vancouver also has some Xcelsiors, but they are the 40 foot diesel versions as shown on the right.  They have been in service since January.

According to New Flyer, Xcelsiors boast several advantages such as better fuel economy, streamlined design, and a better experience for both the driver and passengers.

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12007 on #49 on the second day of revenue service
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A DE60LFR, the older diesel-electric hybrid articulated buses with “charcoal top” livery

These new buses look a lot sleeker than their predecessors, however I would have personally preferred the “charcoal top” version of the livery.

XDE60 Rear Door
Push bars are back!

On the inside, there are a few differences in comparison to existing buses.  TransLink made an excellent decision in bringing back push bars to activate the rear doors.  In the past few orders, buses were fitted with ultrasonic sensors to activate the rear doors.  From personal observation, many passengers had difficulty activating the sensors to open the door.  Also, doors wouldn’t close because people were standing too close to the door, although they were not obstructing the door in any way.  The return of the push bars should solve these problems.

XDE60 joint
The articulation joint – no seats

There are no more seats in the articulation joint.  Buses used to have double seats (in the oldest models), or “bum bars” that were later converted into single “angel wing seats”.  Now there’s a nice stanchion on both sides that better allow standees and people moving across the joint.

There are rear-facing seats right before the articulation joint.  Considering you aren’t sitting directly in front of someone, I’d say this is fine, although I prefer the bench seating in the old models.  It seems like the wheel well on these new buses are wider (but why?).

A shot from the back to the front.
A shot from the back to the front.

The Xcelsior buses are air-conditioned, which is a first for urban buses in Metro Vancouver.  The only other buses in the fleet that are air-conditioned are the Orion suburban highway coaches.

There are 25 of these articulated Xcelsior buses and they are assigned to the Richmond depot.  This means you will likely find them on the #49, #480, #403 and #620 in the near future.

The shorter versions of the buses are in West Vancouver, and you can find them now on a variety of West Vancouver routes.

12007 makes the loop around Metrotown Station
12007 makes the loop around Metrotown Station

Check out my Facebook album if you want to see some other photos.