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.
Location: Nicolet Mall at Washington Avenue, Minneapolis, MN
Operator of Vehicle: METRO Transit
Date of Photo: May 1, 2014
No matter where in the world you are, it would be hard to believe that you are not aware of the fact that a presidential election is taking place in the United States next week. In light of this fact, it seemed appropriate to feature a photo from METRO Transit in Minneapolis, which offered free rides on Election Day in 2014 to make it easier for people to get to the polls. I have yet to find word about whether or not METRO Transit is offering that again, though I have been told that free rides are being made available in Houston (a city that Oren’s Transit Page has yet to visit) to access the polls both for early voting and on Election Day itself.
Do you know of other transit systems that offer free rides on Election Day? If so, let others know by posting a comment below this post. Finally, if you are eligible to participate in the US election next Tuesday, please take the time to go to the polls, cast a ballot, and make your voice heard. (If you don’t live in the US, you are encouraged to do the same at the appropriate time for the location in which you live.) Our freedoms, including the right to be able to photograph transit vehicles in public rights of way, depend on our participation in the democratic system.
For more photos of METRO Transit buses, please click here.
Location: Massachusetts Avenue at Brattle Street, Boston, MA
Operator of Vehicle: Massachusetts Bay Area Transit Authority (MBTA)
Date of Photo: May 2, 2011
Since 1977, the “RTS” has been plying the streets for transit agencies across the United States. Perhaps, these buses are associated most with New York City, where they made up much of the bus fleet in the 1990s. However, they had a presence in lots of other cities, too, such as Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston. It is in the last of these cities that I took this photo back in 2011. Even five years ago, the RTS’s dominance in the Boston bus fleet was already considered to be a time that had passed. However, the RTS is not completely gone from the streets of Boston. Although the RTSs are being retired gradually, the last ones are expected to remain in service until sometime in 2018.
For more photos of MBTA’s RTS buses, please click here.
Location: 1st Street at Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
Operator of Vehicle: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA)
Date of Photo: July 14, 2014
Los Angeles has far more public transit than one might expect for a city with such a car-centric reputation. In fact, it has the second largest bus fleet in the entire United States, with almost 2,500 buses! Los Angeles is also the inspiration for at least one other city’s current paint scheme. Since June 24, 000, LACMTA has been operating the “Metro Rapid” brand. Metro Rapid service is limited bus service that runs in the same corridors as standard “Metro Local” routes, with some of the components found on full fledged bus rapid transit (BRT) lines. One of the BRT features incorporated in to Metro Rapid is a special paint scheme for the limited stop buses. In the photo above, the Metro Rapid bus is painted maroon, while the Metro Local bus is in the “standard” orange LACMTA livery. I’m pretty sure that WMATA’s relatively new “MetroLocal” and “MetroExtra” schemes are inspired by Los Angeles’s schemes. This theory is bolstered by the fact that the general manager of WMATA at the time those schemes were adopted was John Catoe, who spent much of his career at LACMTA.
Personally, I’m not a fan of branded buses unless the operating agency can ensure that the proper bus is almost always assigned to the proper line. Otherwise, the branding is diluted. However, from what I could tell during my stay there, Metro Rapid buses seem to stick to the Metro Rapid routes and the same goes for the various other paint schemes that LACMTA has employed. What do you think of branded buses like those featured in the photo of the month this month? Leave a comment with your opinion!
For more photos of LACMTA’s buses and their various paint schemes, please click here.
Location: Avenida João Luíz Alves, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Date of Photo: July 29, 2010
The world will be turning its attention to Rio de Janeiro at the end of this week as the 2016 Summer Olympics get underway. Considering the size of the city’s population and area, you would think that athletes and visitors would travel via trains and modern subways. However, this isn’t the case, Rio de Janeiro or any other Brazilian city. Many large cities do not have subway systems, and those the systems that do exist are quite small considering the size of the cities they serve. Therefore, buses form the backbone of the public transit infrastructure in most Brazilian cities, including Rio. The city is building a new subway line to serve Olympic venues, but it is only scheduled to open today, just five days before the opening ceremony for the games. With the strong possibility that Line 4 will not be at the starting line so to speak when the challenge to transport the crowds for the Olympics, the buses of Rio de Janeiro will be expected a gold medal as spectators travel around the metropolis over the next few weeks.
For more photos of Rio de Janeiro’s bus system, please click here.
Location: Fifth Avenue at University Place, Pittsburgh, PA
Operator of Vehicle: Port Authority of Allegheny County
Date of Photo: November 27, 2015
Over the years, Pittsburgh’s buses have had varied liveries. For example, in the current fleet, you can find buses painted green, red, dark blue, light blue, silver, and gold. However, the Neoplan AN460s in the Port Authority of Allegheny County fleet have an added touch to them, featuring Burma Shave style poetry. For example, this bus says “This big shiny bus / Is really no riddle / But it sure is odd / How it bends in the middle.” If you are used to a standard livery being used across an entire fleet, it is quite fascinating to stand on a Pittsburgh street corner and see what color the next bus to come along is. The poetry wraps on the buses that have it is certainly an added bonus!
Location: Cabo de Roca, Portugal
Operator of Vehicle: Scotturb
Date of Photo: November 18, 2013
When most transit enthusiasts think of Portugal, the first thing that comes to mind is likely the famous “Remodelado” trams in Lisbon. However, transit fans who enjoy traveling to “extremes” should consider heading out to Sintra. Not only is Sintra a popular destination for a day trip from Lisbon easily accessible by the Lisbon’s commuter rail system, you can take Scotturb route 403 out to Cabo de Roca, which is continental Europe’s westernmost point. Many come out to this vista to watch the sun set in to the Atlantic Ocean, an unusual sight for people who live in North or South America. Seeing as Cabo de Roca is the westernmost point in continental Europe, the 403 stop at Cabo de Roca, less than 1000 feet from the ocean itself, is Europe’s westernmost bus stop. If neither the thought of seeing the sun set in to the Atlantic nor using the westernmost bus stop in all of Europe interests you as things to do if you ever find yourself in Portugal, you’re missing out.
For more photos of Scotturb buses, please click here.