Location: Smithfield Street at 5th Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA
Operator of Vehicle: Mid Mon Valley Transit Authority (MMVTA)
Date of Photo: November 27, 2015
The Port Authority isn’t the only bus operator in Pittsburgh. There are some other operators in the area, and this month features another one of those operators. Among its routes are commuter services from Washington County, Westmoreland County, and Fayette County to and from Pittsburgh. And just like PAT, their buses have a colorful flair to them.
For more photos of Pittsburgh’s buses, please click here.
Location: Derech Jericho near Derech Sha’ar HaArayot, Jerusalem, Israel
Operator of Vehicle: Egged
Date of Photo: April 2, 2010
Yesterday, we visited the 9th Avenue Station in New York, and specifically, a photo showing both a train route and a track alignment that are no longer in use. The same evolution of routes over time can also happen with buses. In some regards, it is a bit easier with a bus, since it doesn’t have tracks, so changing an alignment to make or change a route is easier. However, that doesn’t meant this sort of change can’t be difficult. This photo shows a Mercedes-Benz O 405 G nearing the end of the number 2 route in Jerusalem, Israel. The 2’s route was so well known that people who had only been to Jerusalem once knew where it went. However, in 2012, as part of the restructuring of the bus routes following the opening of the Jerusalem Light Rail, it was discontinued and replaced by two different routes, neither of which carries the number 2 designation. The 2 is so venerable that when other proposed routes needed a number assigned to them, 2 was not considered as an option because these proposed routes wouldn’t go anywhere near the Western Wall where the original number 2 terminated. (As an aside, the bus model shown in the photo has also been entirely withdrawn from service.)
Are there any bus routes in a city that you live in or are familiar with where the number is so strongly associated with a single route?
For more photos of Egged Jerusalem’s Mercedes-Benz O 405 G buses, please click here.
Location: Bay Street at Keith Street, West Vancouver, BC, Canada
Operator of Vehicle: West Vancouver Blue Bus
Date of Photo: August 6, 2007
West Vancouver Blue Bus has the distinction of being the oldest municipally operated bus system in North America, having been founded in 1912. Although they are operated under contract to TransLink (which is the primary transit operator in the Vancouver area), the dozen or so West Vancouver Blue Bus routes certainly have their own identity. After all, no other buses in the Vancouver region are running around with the West Vancouver seal above their headsigns. It’s been nearly 10 years since I was in Vancouver and I still don’t think I’ve seen an agency before or since that trip to stick something on the roof of the buses like that before. Has anyone else seen anything like it elsewhere or know why West Vancouver Blue Bus does this on all their buses? It is certainly unique.
For more photos of West Vancouver Blue Bus buses, please click here.
Location: Avenida da Liberdade at Rua das Pretas, Lisbon, Portugal
Operator of Vehicle: Carris
Date of Photo: November 15, 2013
Articulated buses with three doors are finally becoming more common in the United States, but in Europe, three door artics have been a standard sight for many years now, and the Mercedes-Benz O530G model is easily found all over the continent. This particular bus operates in Lisbon, one of 50 units that can be found in the Portuguese capital. Unlike some other European capitals, such as Paris, buses can be found with relative ease in the city center. In some cases, the buses even share a right of way with Lisbon’s famed trams. In other words, it isn’t implausible for a tourist to have a need to take a bus to get from one place to another. In addition to sharing fare media with the trams and Metro, Lisbon’s buses have automated announcements that call out the name of each stop, making for easy navigation. While the trams are the “transportation highlight” in Lisbon hands down, don’t overlook the buses while you’re there, either for transit fanning or just to get around.
For more photos of Lisbon’s buses, please click here.
Location: Herzl Street at the main gate of the Weizzmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel
Operator of Vehicle: Egged
Date of Photo: May 15, 2011
Today, the State of Israel marks the 69th anniversary of its independence. One way in which the country celebrates this day is by decorating balconies, streets, and even cars (among other things) Israeli flags or just blue and white decorations of any sort. Therefore, if one is taking pictures of just about any streetscape in Israel at this time of year (whether it be of buses or something else), it is hard to not capture some of these decorations in the photo, as I did here.
Although the State of Israel was founded in 1948, Egged, its primary bus operator, traces its history back to 1933. In its earliest days, some of its buses even traveled to Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, Egypt, and Iraq. A more recent international route, a Tel Aviv-Cairo route, operated from 1982 until 1996. However, Egged’s presence has always been strongest within Israel itself, and at one time just about every bus line outside of the Tel Aviv area was operated by Egged. In recent years, the government has opened up the bidding process to operate these services to more companies, and Egged now only operates about 37 percent of scheduled bus services in Israel. However, it still remains the largest operator.
For more photos of Egged buses in Rehovot, please click here.
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: 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: 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: 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.