Ah, that new bus smell. Metro today showed off one of the agency’s sleek new hybrid electric buses. By the end of the year, the Metrobus fleet should include 152 of these new vehicles, which are quite distinctive in their interior and exterior design from older generations.
The new Metrobuses will start to enter service this month and will be spread throughout the system. You can recognize them by their fleet numbers, 7001 through 7152. But they also look less boxy than previous designs and have silver paint replacing the white of previous generations. They’re 18 inches shorter than other recent models, probably not something you’ll recognize easily at a bus stop.
They are attractive. And that’s part of the concept. The buses are meant to draw people across that first step and aboard a form of transit they may not have used in many years.
The buses accommodate 40 seated passengers and about 20 standees. They’re two inches lower in height and weigh 4,000 pounds less than recent models. The floor is 14 inches high at the front door, two inches lower than recent models. This is very noticeable on boarding, and will remind riders of the Circulator buses.
The front door also has a ramp for wheelchairs, a design that Metro managers hope will be less likely to break down than the older style lifts. The seats have plastic backings and handles where there used to be metal that could rust. The blue cloth seats have a friendly feel, and Metro officials say they are much less vulnerable to wear and tear — including vandalism — than previous models.
There are five video cameras aboard for security, as well as a device called a Drivecam that records any unusual activity, including crashes, to provide views of the bus driver’s actions and the environment around the bus at the time of the incident.
Riders will notice yellow straps hanging from the metal rails that run along the aisle to provide extra hand grips for shorter passengers. Passengers near the rear doors will become aware of a new sensing system that detects when riders are too close to the doors. The sensors trigger an automated announcement that warns riders to keep away from the doors when the bus is moving.
Maintenance managers who rode the bus with reporters this morning are quite pleased about the addition of these New Flyers to the fleet, which totals 1,492 buses. They see equipment that is likely to prove more durable than older buses and will be easier to work with when maintenance is required.