Post-summer update

I can’t believe it’s September already.  The weather is starting to become cool and wet, days are becoming shorter, marking the end of what has been an incredible summer (and year to date).  It’s been a while since I’ve written here, so with the changing season I thought I’d share a bit of an update of 2016 so far.

Some of these warrant their own blog posts, but until I have time to write the full thing here is a summary. Continue reading “Post-summer update”

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
12007
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!

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.

1006 hydrogen fuel cell bus
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

New Xcelsior buses hit Vancouver streets

12007
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.

1202
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.

12007
12007 on #49 on the second day of revenue service
8148
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.