Perfect BRT Vehicle

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					          The Search for the
          Perfect BRT Vehicle

                                                                          The Inve
                                              ic Transport                        r
                                                                         lar desig o from New Fly
                                 Advanced Publ
                The Phileas from nced guidance systems.                           n that a         e
                                                                                           llows m r Industries has
                Systems offers ad                                                                 ultiple d
                                                                                                            oor plac a modu-

      The Civis
      as well a from Irisbus ha                                                                             ican Bus
                                                                                                 North Amer ooters.
               s autom         s                                                       oBus from
                       atic doc rail-like exterio                               t Comp                 an 40-f
                               king cap          r
                                        ability. styling             The 45-foo ers higher capacity th
                                                                     Industries o

                                                  Demand for BRT vehicles is

          B            us rapid transit
                       (BRT) seems to be
                       a solution that can
                       be plugged into
          many problems.
             Need a low-cost alternative
          to light rail? BRT. Looking for
                                              rising. But is the market ahead were about 40 cities looking
                                                 of the product? Issues like
                                                   styling, cost, advanced
                                                 propulsion and guidance
                                                                                        at BRT; now there are about
                                                                                        150.” This burgeoning de-
                                                                                        mand has outstripped the
                                                                                        manufacturers’ ability to re-
                                             systems need to be addressed. spond. “As a manufacturer,
                                                                                        we would ask that the prop-
                                                   By Steve Hirano, Editor
          an environmentally friendly                                                   erties have a little bit of pa-
          mode of public transporta-                                                    tience,” Henke says.
          tion? BRT. Trying to attract choice riders to your bus   Henke says that the majority of cities are interested
          system? BRT. Need a high-capacity vehicle to provide in “conventional” BRT, which uses traditional transit
          frequent service with minimal dwell times? BRT. The buses with some styling enhancements and compo-
          list of questions goes on, with the same answer.       nent upgrades. But there’s also the high-end district,
             But there’s another question that needs to be ad- which is populated by the likes of Irisbus’ Civis and
          dressed: How can BRT vehicle manufacturers meet the Phileas by Advanced Public Transport Systems
          the slew of design and production demands of the (APTS). Bridging the gap between these alternatives is
          transit properties that have recently fallen in love one challenge facing the supplier community.
          with the BRT concept, especially on the higher end?
          The answer: Not easily.                                What do they want?
             “Market interest is expanding dramatically,” says     Choosing the right vehicle for a specific applica-
          Cliff Henke, manager of external affairs for North tion is the challenge facing transit agencies. Making
          American Bus Industries (NABI). “A year ago there matters more difficult, many of these properties plan

to implement their BRT programs in-          ment of 21 BRT vehicles that is still       talk about curb appeal, but not about
crementally. What might work for the         being negotiated.                           interiors,” he says. “The KFC interiors
first couple of years could be outdated         According to Marino, two Civis units     that we have in most buses are not
by the time infrastructure improve-          have been operating for two years in        going to cut it. That has to be addressed
ments, such as BRT stations with dock-       Rouen, France, along a 15-mile, 46-sta-     if BRT is going to be successful.”
ing capabilities, are completed.             tion BRT system with three overlapping         New Flyer entered the BRT market
   “Part of the dilemma is the defini-       lines. The two Civis operate shoulder to    by reconfiguring its Invero low-floor
tion of a BRT vehicle,” says John Mari-      shoulder with 38 Irisbus standard me-       product. Stanton says the bus is mod-
no, CEO of Irisbus North America. “It        chanical-drive articulated buses that       ular in design, allowing for the doors
has become very clouded.” The Civis,         were outfitted with the optical guid-       to be positioned to accommodate mul-
with its rail-like exterior styling, elec-   ance system. These standard models are      tiple entry points and off-board fare
tric driveline, optical guidance system      being replaced with Civis units, he says.   collection, two attributes commonly
and automatic docking capability, of-                                                    assigned to BRT. It can be powered by
fers many key attributes of BRT service.     Form vs. function                           hybrid diesel electric, helping to meet
“A true BRT vehicle should have the             “What we have found is that many         another BRT attribute — advanced
capability of automatic docking and          cities haven’t made up their minds on       propulsion.
some form of automatic guidance, but         how they want to define BRT service,”          With the growing popularity of hy-
that’s not a consensus in the industry,”     says Bill Stanton, director of market-      brid propulsion, some of the uncertain-
Marino says.                                 ing and product development for New         ty about power systems is alleviated,
   Though untested outside Europe,           Flyer Industries. Some cities have          but questions still remain about the via-
the Civis is scheduled to make its U.S.      piled into the BRT bandwagon prema-         bility and availability of advanced
debut in August when the first of 10         turely because of the political cachet,     propulsion. “We’re waiting for the
vehicles will begin revenue service in       he says. “The politicians want to stand     propulsion technologies to mature,”
Las Vegas. It’s also being considered by     in front of it and cut the ribbon.”         says NABI’s Henke. As a bus platform
the Greater Cleveland Regional Tran-            Stanton also asserts that many cities    developer and systems integrator rather
sit Authority (GCRTA) in a procure-          are distracted by cosmetic details. “They   than a propulsion developer, NABI has

                                                                                    FEBRUARY | MARCH 2003 METRO MAGAZINE             31
     little control over the availability of       the part of the manufacturers and on               ufacturer submitted a bid was that tran-
     components such as advanced propul-           our part.” To fill the void, the MTA will          sit officials wanted a vehicle that had
     sion systems, Henke adds.                     procure CNG articulated buses that can             doors on both sides. The Phileas was
        Last fall, Valley Metro in Phoenix or-     be used for Metro Rapid service as well            the only BRT vehicle that fit the bill.
     dered 56 45-foot LNG CompoBuses               as traditional fixed-route applications.              There were other reasons, of course.
     from NABI for a new BRT suburban ex-             The MTA’s bidders were Irisbus,                 Mark Pangborn, assistant general man-
     press service. In addition to a sleek exte-   APTS, NABI and New Flyer. New Flyer’s              ager at LTD, says the Phileas has an ad-
     rior styling, Henke says the buses offer      Stanton says the bid was dropped be-               vanced computer guidance system that
     18% more capacity due to the addition         cause none of the vehicles met the cri-            utilizes magnets embedded in the
     of seven seats. Because the composite         teria with respect to compliance, price            busway. This avoids some of the prob-
     body is lighter than its steel counter-       and delivery. The more advanced tech-              lems associated with optical guidance
     parts, the lengthening of the vehicle         nology vehicles — the Civis and Phileas            systems, which he says can be thwarted
     from 40 to 45 feet does not significantly     — underwent close scrutiny by the                  by debris such as leaves or snow. Also,
     affect operating costs, Henke says.           MTA, including trips to the Nether-                the vehicle has all-wheel steering,
                                                                                                                  which allows it to dock with
     Evolving Metro Rapid                                                                                         great precision, he says.
        In Los Angeles, a BRT ser-        We need to have a product that’s                                           Pangborn says the agency
     vice called Metro Rapid has                                                                                  plans to order five or six of
     been successful in building          convenient and fast and that                                            the vehicles, but is awaiting
     ridership along four mixed-          the public will look at and say,                                        final pricing from the man-
     traffic corridors by imple-                                                                                  ufacturer.
     menting high-frequency ser-          ‘I want to get on that.’                                                   So what’s the drawback?
     vice and signal priority.                                     Mark Pangborn,assistant general manager        The Phileas is basically an
     Officials at the Los Angeles                                          Lane Transit District,Eugene,Ore.      untested vehicle. According
     County Metropolitan Trans-                                                                                   to APTS’ Anton Kloster-
     portation Authority (MTA)                                                                                    mann, a few units are being
     tout a 40% increase in ridership, includ-     lands and France for demonstrations.               tested in Eindhoven in the Nether-
     ing a large percentage of choice riders,      “The limited seating capacity of both              lands. He says 10 more vehicles will be
     and have plans for several more BRT           products and the limited top speed of              delivered this year and all will be oper-
     routes in the coming years.                   the Phileas mitigated other advantages             ational by the end of the year.
        The MTA opted for a simple solution        such as styling, guidance systems and                 That doesn’t help Pangborn, though.
     to its initial BRT vehicle needs. Instead     interior layout,” Stanton says.                       The lack of historical data on the
     of high-end, rail-like vehicles costing          But Hunt says the biggest hurdle                maintenance and operation of the
     more than $1 million each, the MTA            that the manufacturers faced was                   Phileas is a source of concern. “There’s
     chose 40-foot low-floor buses built by        timely delivery. “We wanted the vehi-              no one we can ask about their start-up
     NABI. The buses have a distinctive            cles sooner than the proposers would               costs and their maintenance experi-
     paint scheme, but are otherwise stan-         be able to manufacture them,” he                   ence,” says Pangborn. “This a new level
     dard vehicles.                                says. “Universally, that was the                   of technology. Whenever you have
        That’s not to say, however, that the       biggest issue we faced.”                           that, any number of problems can
     MTA isn’t interested in ramping up the           Hunt remains optimistic that the                arise.” The bottom line, however, is
     image of its Metro Rapid program with         MTA will eventually procure high-                  that the transit board is willing to ac-
     more sophisticated vehicles. The MTA          technology BRT vehicles. “We’re not                cept the risks, or, as Pangborn says, “at
     recently attempted to procure up to 92        dropping the issue,” he says. “We just             least understand the risks.”
     BRT vehicles that were closer to the          punted this time.”
     rail-like Phileas and Civis. They re-                                                         Eyes on Cleveland
     ceived five bids from four manufactur-        The high-tech alternative                         In Cleveland, construction on the
     ers, but withdrew the procurement in             In Eugene, Ore., Lane Transit Dis-           $264 million Euclid Corridor Trans-
     late 2002. Their reluctance to move for-      trict (LTD) has no intention of punting         portation Project is scheduled to start
     ward provides a micro-level view of the       its dream of a high-end BRT vehicle.            in 2004 and to be completed in 2006.
     market being ahead of the product.               The agency is hoping to implement            As mentioned earlier, the GCRTA is
        Richard Hunt, the MTA’s deputy ex-         BRT service along a four-mile corridor          weighing vehicle proposals, including
     ecutive officer for vehicle technology,       in late 2004. During its vehicle procure-       the Civis and more conventional buses.
     says the agency was a bit premature.          ment, LTD officials received only one           In a Jan. 13 op-ed piece published in
     “The technology that we were trying to        bid. That came from APTS, the Hol-              the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Joseph Cal-
     implement is not quite mature yet,” he        land-based manufacturer of the Phileas.         abrese, CEO and general manager of
     says. “There were too many risks on           One of the reasons that no other man-           GCRTA, explained that the agency en-

visions a vehicle that is “more like a       as a “quantum leap forward” in public        Widespread interest
light rail vehicle than a bus.”              transit, with vehicles that “look and op-       APTS, Irisbus, NABI and New Flyer
   Specifically, the GCRTA is looking for    erate like a grounded monorail system.”      are not the only bus manufacturers
a 60-foot, articulated low-floor bus that       The image that the RTC is trying to       immersed in BRT projects.
is powered by hybrid diesel electric. In a   build is a system that’s “cool,” says           Van Hool is working with AC Transit
recent project newsletter distributed by     Tina Wu, senior planner. “What we            in Oakland, Calif., on a 60-foot articulat-
the GCRTA, photos of the Civis and           told the public is that this vehicle will    ed bus that could be used for BRT. Gillig
Phileas were used as “examples of possi-     be distinctive,” she adds. If the Civis      Corp. is readying plans for a phased de-
ble Euclid Corridor vehicles.” The vehi-     experience in Las Vegas is a good one,       ployment of BRT vehicles that would
cles will operate in dedicated lanes with    Wu says she would be inclined to lean        start with enhanced conventional vehi-
off-board fare collection.                   in that direction. But she also ex-          cles and transition to more rail-like vehi-
   Whether or not the final selection        pressed interest in working with a           cles over the next several years.
will be one of the high-end European-        North American manufacturer. “I’m               Doubtless, other bus manufacturers
style BRT vehicles or the more tradi-        hoping that by the time we get ready         are also coming up with game plans to
tional vehicles manufactured in North        for procurement, one of the domestic         meet the rising demand for BRT vehicles
America is open to speculation. At           manufacturers will come up with a ve-        in North America. Although it’s not clear
press time, a board vote on the vehicle      hicle that we can use.”                      how successful BRT will be on a large
selection was scheduled for March.              The RTC is still in the early stages of   scale, the need for innovative, cost-effec-
                                             the BRT project, having just devised         tive and truly rapid transit is clear.
Cool enough for Reno?                        the draft phase implementation plan.            “We’ve got to compete with the car,”
  An ambitious BRT program is being          The strategy is to start with a mixed-       says LTD’s Pangborn. “If we can’t do
nurtured to reality in Reno, Nev. The        use traffic model and then transition        that, then transit’s market share will
Regional Transportation Commission           to a fixed guideway. “We’ll have a ded-      remain the same. We need to have a
(RTC) is pushing for BRT service along       icated lane, eventually,” she says. “To      product that’s convenient and fast and
the six-mile Virginia Street corridor.       preserve the running time, you really        that the public will look at and say, ‘I
RTC officials are positioning the service    do need the exclusive lane.”                 want to get on that.’”

                                                                                     FEBRUARY | MARCH 2003 METRO MAGAZINE               33