Location: Covadonga Terminal, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Operator of Vehicle: Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses de Puerto Rico (AMA)
Date of Photo: March 21, 2016
When traveling to Puerto Rico, there are a number of ways in which you are reminded that you are not on the US mainland anymore, and then there are other ways in which you are reminder that Puerto Rico is a United States territory. The transit fleet in San Juan definitely falls in to the latter category. The bus fleet is made up of the same Orion and Gillig models you find all over the United States. Capture a CVS or Walgreens in the background of a photo and without other context, you may very well think that the photo was taken somewhere other than Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, public transit on the scale that one would find comparable to the US mainland is only available in San Juan, and evening and Sunday service is lacking even in that city to say the least. However, if one wants a slightly “foreign” flavor to what would otherwise be “standard” North American transitfanning, San Juan might be worth a visit!
For more photos of Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses de Puerto Rico (AMA)’s buses, please click here.
Location: Peachtree Center, Atlanta, Georgia
Operator of Vehicle: Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA)
Date of Photo: October 8, 2015
As a result of Thursday night’s interstate highway collapse, MARTA is likely going to be getting a great deal of attention as the Atlanta area looks to cope for quite awhile without one of its main highways. Fortunately, MARTA should be up to the task. Its original rolling stock, the CQ310 cars, were originally built between 1979 and 1982 by the now defunct Société Franco-Belge company. They were rehabilitated between 2006 and 2009 by Alstom, a process that brought them up to date with a series of modern amenities but also made them operationally compatible with the newer Breda CQ312 cars. MARTA’s rolling stock reminds me a lot of its “cousins” in San Francisco and Washington. These three systems were constructed at about the same time and share a number of design features. Although MARTA is not nearly as large nor as well utilized as BART and the DC Metrorail, one can hope that it can prove its worth in the emergency situation that Atlanta is currently faced with.
For more photos of MARTA rolling stock, please click here.
Location: Diagonal, Barcelona, Spain
Operator of Vehicle: Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB)
Date of Photo: June 6, 2008
Based on the fact that this website’s Washington, DC section is one of the largest that I have, my guess is most people expect to see photos of WMATA rolling stock when they hear about a CAF 5000 Series. Well if that is what you were expecting to see here, surprise! WMATA doesn’t have the world’s only CAF 5000 Series cars, and the March Rail Photo of the Month features one of the other ones. Specifically, this CAF built 5000 Series train operates in Barcelona. Thirty-nine of these trains were delivered starting in 2005 and currently operate on lines 3 and 5.
While these trains operate a world away from their Washington cousins, they do have some similarities. Both the Barcelona and DC systems have automatic train operation and their 5000 series trains both have on board diagnostics systems. However, there are also some notable differences. Barcelona’s Metro uses overhead catenary lines to power its trains whereas Washington has an electrified third rail. The Barcelona 5000 Series also has open gangways between each car, while the DC 5000 Series cars are in married pairs with no internal passage between the cars (except in emergencies). Finally, to my knowledge, there are no plans to replace the Barcelona 5000 Series any time soon, while the incoming Kawasaki 7000 Series cars will ultimately force the retirement of the CAF 5000 Series in DC.
For more photos of Barcelona’s CAF 5000 Series railcars, please click here.
Location: Broad Street at 7th Street, Richmond, VA
Operator of Vehicle: Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC)
Date of Photo: November 25, 2016
March is supposed to come in roaring like a lion, but for the bus photo of the month, we go back to the fall when I visited Richmond, Virginia for the first time. Richmond is a fascinating city with a mix of different architectural styles in its compact downtown. One can walk from the state capitol building, which was designed by Thomas Jefferson, and encounter modern buildings or other structures of any age in between within minutes.
Richmond also has a transit system befitting the city’s own history. The world’s first successful electric streetcar system opened here in 1881, and the Church Hill Tunnel collapse is also a noteworthy event in Richmond’s transit history. Next year, Richmond’s first BRT line, “The Pulse”, will begin service. In the meantime, one can enjoy the existing GRTC fleet of mostly Gillig Advantages shuttling around the city. I plan to highlight some of my favorite photos from Richmond in “The Viewfinder” here on the Travelogue in the coming weeks.
For more photos of GRTC’s buses, please click here.
Location: University Avenue at East Avenue, Ithaca, NY
Operator of Vehicle: Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit
Date of Photo: February 14, 2007
The rail photo of the month for this month came to us from sunny San Diego. For the bus photo, we head to quite a different climate, snowy Ithaca, NY. Ten years ago this month, Ithaca saw a snowstorm that brought about two feet of snow to the Finger Lakes region. It was enough snow to see Cornell University cancel classes for the day and for TCAT, which operates through winter weather that most other agencies would probably balk at trying to provide service in, to suspend operations. However, before that suspension kicked in, the buses were running despite the fast falling snow. Taking photos of anything in these conditions can be challenging due to the temperature, potential condensation on the camera lens, and difficulty in getting the frame in focus if the camera focuses on the snow instead of my intended target. Variances in light, such as those caused by an LED destination sign or vehicle headlights, pose additional challenges, However, the photos came out, the buses kept running (at least for awhile), and the result is that one can see how TCAT keeps rolling no matter the weather.
Although the winter weather in Ithaca remains cold and snowy, some things do change in Ithaca. The New Flyer bus seen in this photo is now one of the oldest in the fleet, and Route 81 is no longer the main service on the Cornell campus following a restructuring of campus routes in recent years.
For more photos of TCAT’s New Flyer D40LF buses, please click here.
Location: Park Boulevard at Market Street, San Diego, CA
Operator of Vehicle: San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS)
Date of Photo: July 17, 2014
In recent years, streetcars and light rails have been experiencing a renaissance in the United States. Just last year, three new streetcar systems opened in Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Washington, DC. However, the San Diego Trolley was the first of these “second generation” streetcar and light rail systems to open in the United States. Its initial segment opened in 1981 and it has expanded to include three lines serving 53 stations. In 2015, the system became entirely low floor upon the retirement of the original Siemens–Duewag U2 cars, such as the one seen in this photograph. The retirement of these high floor cars was a multi-phase project that involved redoing the station platforms across the entire network, in addition to procuring the new low floor fleet. However, this successful completion is yet another demonstration of how the San Diego Trolley has proven itself to be a successful part of the city’s transportation network.
For more photos of the San Diego Trolley, please click here.
Location: 16th Street at Larimer Street, Denver, CO
Operator of Vehicle: Regional Transportation District
Date of Photo: July 21, 2014
Downtown Denver features one of the most unique transit operations in the entire United States. The “MallRide” operates on the 16th Street Mall, a 1.25 mile long pedestrian mall in the Colorado state capital. 16th Street is closed to all motorized vehicles with the exception of the buses serving the MallRide, a free bus route that runs along the length of the street from Union Station to Civic Center. When the MallRide launched in 1982, it was operated with a fleet of custom built buses with right hand and front wheel drive. This was done so that bus drivers would have a better view of pedestrians who might be crossing in front of the bus’s path unexpectedly. When it came time to replace the fleet, Neoplan offered Denver a prototype bus with left hand drive, but the bus drivers made it very clear to the RTD they preferred right hand drive for the MallRide route. The RTD then went back to the drawing board and ultimately teamed with TransTeq to build the EcoMark buses that make up most of MallRide’s fleet today. In addition to having the driver requested right hand drive, these buses are also hybrid-electric buses, so they operate noiselessly along the pedestrian mall.
For more photos of the TransTeq EcoMark buses, please click here.
Location: Beach 25th Street Station, New York, NY
Operator of Vehicle: MTA New York City Transit
Date of Photo: June 28, 2010
Today at noon, the Second Avenue Subway will open for revenue service in New York City. The Second Avenue Subway was first conceived in 1929 as a six track line running the length of Manhattan. Needless to say, it took a long time to turn this line from sketches on maps in to reality. So long in fact that several classes of subway cars that were designed with the intention of operating them on the Second Avenue Subway were introduced, operated elsewhere on the subway, and have already been retired. One of these car classes was the R44, which is featured as the photo of the month for January 2017 in honor of the opening of the Second Avenue Subway.
The R44 was the first New York City subway car to be 75 feet long, under the premise it would be more efficient to operate 8 75 foot long cars as a single train instead of 10 60 foot long cars (both trainsets are 600 feet long). They were also the first cars to feature bucket seats, audible door chimes, and lacked the traditional straps that standing passengers held on to. They were introduced on the F line in 1971, overhauled in the early 1990s, and remained in service until their retirement in 2010 due to structural integrity concerns, having never had the chance to operate on the line they were expected to serve. Instead, the Second Avenue Subway will be served by the R160s that currently operate on the Q line.
For more photos of the R44 subway cars, please click here.
Location: Addison Road Station, Seat Pleasant, MD
Operator of Vehicle: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Date of Photo: April 5, 2003
Yesterday, the about to be retired WMATA Orion V buses were featured in the bus photo of the month. The rail photo of the month also comes from the DC area, but this time, the featured equipment’s era has already come to a partial end. Last month, in response to a safety issue, WMATA began to “belly” its 4000 Series railcars in the middle of train consists. In other words, the 4000 Series cars will no longer be used at the front or rear of trains. Since the 1000 Series cars have been operating in this manner since 2009, this new policy means that the “original” look for the DC Metrorail will no longer be seen at the front or rear of trains. No longer will we see flip dot destination signs, American flags, or decals commemorating Metro’s 25th anniversary at the front or rear of a train. There will be no more trains featuring the “classic” interior color scheme with orange and yellow seats and sand colored walls as the lead or tail cars of a consist. Instead, if you choose to ride at the railfan window at the front of the train, you’ll be guaranteed the newer interior scheme of burgundy, blue, and yellow seat cushions and cream colored walls.
Obviously, safety concerns are to be taken seriously, and I understand why the average Metrorail rider probably prefers the newer equipment over the old. However, with the 1000 Series cars already relegated to the middle of consists, being able to sit at the railfan seat on a 4000 Series car was a last vestige of sorts of the Metro that I grew up with and that was very much a part of making me in to a transit enthusiast. By comparison, the newer 7000 series cars lack a railfan seat entirely. They may be the most unreliable cars in the fleet at this point, but the 4000 Series cars were the last link to the Metrorail I grew up with. Not seeing them at the front of trains anymore will take some getting used to.
Although the 4000 Series cars will no longer be at the front or rear of trains, they aren’t being retired just yet. After the 1000 Series cars are retired, the 4000 Series cars will be gradually retired as additional 7000 Series trains arrive. Metro is attempting to have all 1000 Series and 4000 Series cars retired by the end of 2017. Hopefully, a pair of 1000 Series cars will be saved for historic preservation purposes, though I don’t feel nearly as strongly about preserving a 4000 Series car.
For more photos of WMATA’s 4000 Series railcars, please click here.
Location: Fort Totten Station, Washington, DC
Operator of Vehicle: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Date of Photo: June 17, 2009
Since 1992, the Orion V has been part of WMATA’s bus fleet. In a matter of weeks or even days, depending on what you hear, that will no longer be the case. The last of Metro’s Orion Vs, which have been in service for over 16 years, are expected to be retired in the very near future, though a few will hang on in the agency’s “reserve fleet.” These buses have operated from every division at one time or another and made up the bulk of the fleet for much of their service lives. Their 1992 counterparts were retired a few years ago, and the last of their 1997 counterparts were retired earlier this year. They outlived their “siblings”, the 1999 30 foot Orion Vs, which ultimately finished their days with Ride On in 2014. They also remained in service longer than their younger “cousins”, the Orion VIs that WMATA ordered in 2000 but withdrew from service in 2012 following a series of engine fires on board the buses.
WMATA was not the only Orion V operator in the region. Ride On‘s last Orion Vs (from 1999 and 2001-2002) have clung on to life by serving some of the Red Line SafeTrack shuttles, but they have not been used in regular revenue service since earlier this year. DASH and Fairfax Connector operated the Orion V as well.
While the Orion VII remains in service at all of these agencies, Orion was bought by New Flyer in 2013, and production of Orion buses was ceased shortly thereafter. In the same way that the Orions displaced Flxible as the dominant bus in WMATA’s fleet, New Flyer has done the same to WMATA’s Orions. As the DC region’s Orion VIIs reach the end of their service lives in the coming years, the Orion chapter of DC transit history will come to an end.
For more photos of WMATA’s 2000 Orion Vs, please click here.