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Hartford Launches 60-Foot-Long, 'Bendy' Buses, Citing Economy And Better Chances For A Seat

Don Stacom

January 11, 2012

Starting this week, hundreds of CT Transit riders on busy Park Street and Farmington Avenue routes are in store for a new ride and a much better chance for a seat.

New 60-foot-long, two-section buses are scheduled to begin shuttling passengers Wednesday morning.

It will be the Greater Hartford debut of vehicles known as "bendy," or articulated buses extra-long buses that are the bus industry's equivalent of tandem trucks.

Transit managers are eager to cut operating costs by deploying 10 of the extra-large vehicles from Nova Bus, and environmentalists praise their diesel-electric hybrid powerplants.

But riders are likely to focus on a different feature: The far better chance of sitting down during the trip, predicted CT Transit General Manager David Lee.

"Where people had to stand before, they'll get a seat," he said.

Articulated buses are about 20 feet longer than standard transit buses. On the Nova models, the extra room means they can seat up to 57 people. That compares to 38 on a regular city bus.

Articulated buses been used for years in major cities from Boston to Seattle, but CT Transit's newest vehicles will be the first deployed on the streets of Hartford. The two sections of the vehicle are joined at a point that twists and pivots as the bus corners. At that section, the sides and roof are made of a flexible material designed to function like an accordion, extending or contracting on each turn.

The 10 blue-and-silver buses will also be the first articulated models that Canada-based manufacturer Nova Bus has built as hybrids. CT Transit already uses more than two dozen Nova articulated buses in the Stamford and New Haven regions, but the 10 it has bought for Hartford's fleet are the first the switch between diesel and electric power.

"These are among the cleanest vehicles in the world," state Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said at CT Transit's Leibert Road garage on Tuesday. "This is a new generation of vehicle for a new generation of customer, along with the existing generation of customers."

CT Transit expects the hybrid feature will help the new buses get about 3 to 3.5 miles to the gallon roughly 25 percent better than diesel-powered articulateds. The upfront cost difference is huge, though: Each hybrid runs $813,000, compared to about $640,000 apiece for diesel-only models. The federal government is paying the entire cost of the 10-bus purchase.

CT Transits expects the major cost savings will be in staffing.

"About 80 percent of the cost of running a bus is the labor," said Stephen Warren, CT Transit's maintenance chief.

CT Transit said it won't use the higher-capacity buses to cut drivers' jobs. The Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York has warned commuters that it may use articulateds to reduce frequency of service instead of four standard buses an hour, a route might get just three of the bigger ones.

As CT Transit phases in its 10 larger buses, it will deploy them to routes where standard buses are chronically overcrowded, such as Burnside Avenue, New Britain Avenue and Albany Avenue, Lee said.

"That lets us add capacity without adding another bus," Lee said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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