Rail Photo of the Month: May 2019

Hawker-Siddeley PA-3 01244

Hawker-Siddeley PA-3 01244

Location: Green Street, Boston, MA
Operator of Vehicle: Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority
Date of Photo: May 2, 2011

In the early morning hours of May 1, 1987, the MBTA Orange Line operated on its original, Washington Street elevated route for the final time.  Originally, the Orange Line ran on elevated trackage for its entire route.  The original elevated route through Downtown was replaced by the Washington Street Tunnel in 1908.  The Charleston Elevated was replaced by the Haymarket North Extension in 1975.  And the southern portion of the Washington Street Elevated route from Chinatown to Forest Hills, passing through the South End and Roxbury along the way.  MBTA crews worked over the weekend to tie in the Washington Street subway with the Orange Line’s new alignment that used the Southwest Corridor that had originally been built for I-95’s planned route through Boston.  The new alignment opened on May 4 and remains in service to this day.  I took this photo exactly eight years ago at the Green Street Station, one of the new stations along the Southwest Corridor alignment.

For more photos of the MBTA Orange Line, please click here.

In addition, you can see Boston TV station WBZ’s coverage of the last Orange Line train via the Washington Street elevated route in this video clip:  

Bus Photo of the Month: May 2019

NovaBus RTS-06 5242

NovaBus RTS-06 5242

Location: East 42nd Street at 3rd Avenue, New York, NY
Operator of Vehicle: MTA New York City Transit
Date of Photo: December 12, 2012

It is hard to believe, but the end of an era for public transit in New York City is approaching in just a matter of days.  The last of the venerable “RTS” buses, which have been transporting New Yorkers around the five boroughs for thirty-eight years, are due to be retired in the coming days.  The RTS was first developed by GMC’s Truck and Coach Division in 1977 and New York City Transit took its first delivery of RTS buses in 1981.  These buses were able to be recognized by their rounded, futuristic looking fronts, especially when compared to the “New Look” buses that made up much of the fleet when the RTSs were introduced.  Between 1981 and 1999, a total of 4,877 and RTS buses were ordered from three different manufacturers (GMC sold the rights to the RTS design to TMC who later transferred those rights to NovaBUS).  These buses were also the first buses to be equipped with wheelchair lifts, and helped New York City Transit become one of the first agencies of its size to have a 100 percent accessible fleet.  Today, there are only a handful of RTS buses remaining in service in New York City, and it is expected that the remaining units will be taken off the streets by May 10, if not before then due to the fact these buses run on diesel fuel, while newer buses are powered by compressed natural gas or hybrid engines.

New York certainly isn’t the only city to have operated the RTS, but it is certainly the city I associate most with this model of bus.  These buses were everywhere when I would visit family in New York in the 1990s, and while I knew my “home” agency of WMATA had some as well (and they often served routes near where I grew up), I didn’t expect to ride them all that often whereas getting anything but an RTS in New York was a notable event.  I can’t say they were my favorite New York City buses, although I always loved the single seat on the right side just in front of the rear door.  I found the rear door lifts to be annoying as a passenger (it could take a long time to load or unload a wheelchair compared to a bus with a front door lift) and the narrow front door and stairwell was not easy to navigate when traveling with luggage or bulky items.  Over the years, New Flyer D60HFs, Orion Vs, Orion VIIs, and NovaBus LFSAs have come to dominate the routes where I stay most often in New York.  The photo featured this month is one of the last ones I ever took of an RTS in New York, and I took this photo over six years ago.  I believe the last time I rode an RTS in New York City was in 2014.  It just goes to show how much the New York City bus scene has changed in recent years.  However, I don’t expect the association between the RTS and New York City to fade in my mind anytime soon.

What are your memories of the RTS in New York City?

For more photos of New York City Transit’s RTS buses, please click here.

Rail Photo of the Month: April 2019

Alstom Regio Citadis 40092

Alstom Regio Citadis 4009

Location: Centraal Station, The Hauge, Netherlands
Operator of Vehicle: HTM Personenvervoer
Date of Photo: June 4, 2008

Due to the relatively small size of the Netherlands and its high concentration of cities, there can be a lot of different transit operators and services in a single city.  One example of this is The Hauge, where the primary transit operator is HTM Personenvervoer and most vehicles there sport HTM liveries.  However, the two tram lines operated by HTM that connect The Hague and Zoetermeer use vehicles in a special RandstadRail livery, such as the one pictured here, despite being operated by HTM.  To make matters even more confusing, Line E of the Rotterdam Metro is also considered to be part of RandstadRail, even though it is operated by Rotterdam’s Elektrische Tram (RET), the Rotterdam transit agency.  Confusing?  Perhaps, but it certainly makes for an interesting time for any transitfans traveling through the area and looking to see a variety of livery, vehicle types, and service offerings.

For more photos of trams in The Hauge, please click here.

Bus Photo of the Month: April 2019

New Flyer C40LF 2302

New Flyer C40LF 2302

Location: 16th Street, NW at Q Street, Washington, DC
Operator of Vehicle: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)
Date of Photo: July 19, 2007

It may be April Fool’s Day, but this is no April Fool’s Joke!  If you’re familiar with DC area bus assignments, you’ll know that C40LF buses were never assigned to Northern Division, the longtime home of the S2 route.  I also don’t photoshop my photos in that way.  So what’s the deal here?  Sometimes in a pinch, a bus from a “foreign” division gets put in to service on a route in order to maintain service in the event of a service interruption.  For transit fans and those who enjoy taking photos of unusual circumstances, coming across an instance such as this is quite fun, as it allows for taking photos that are really hard to come by.  To my knowledge, this is the only time a C40LF was documented as operating on this route during their service lives.  So even though it is April 1st and perhaps not everything on the internet is believable today, don’t forget to take a second look.  Sometimes, the unexpected is still legitimate.

For more photos of WMATA’s New Flyer C40LF buses, please click here.

Bus Photo of the Month: March 2019

CAF 5013

Van Hool A300K 1133

Location: M Street, NW at Wisconsin Avenue, Washington, DC
Operator of Vehicle: District Department of Transportation (DDOT)
Date of Photo: March 13, 2015

Yesterday’s post was about a DC area equipment type that is no longer operating.  Today’s post is about an equipment type that is still plying the streets of the nation’s capital nearly a year after it was expected to be retired.  When DDOT placed its new Proterra electric buses in to service about a year ago, it was assumed that the remaining Van Hool buses would be retired.  However, nearly 12 months after the Proterras’ debut, the “baby” Van Hools are still in service.  The Van Hools certainly aren’t my favorite bus type in the current DC Circulator fleet; I’d much rather see a New Flyer pull up instead (I have yet to ride a Proterra, but they don’t seem to be operating entire service days just yet).  But if you are a fan of a bus type that is rarely found in the United States or buses that seem to have nine lives, you may want to hunt down one of the Van Hool A300Ks while you have the chance.  Their days may be numbered, and one day that prediction will be right.

For more photos of DC Circulator buses, please click here.

Rail Photo of the Month: March 2019

CAF 5013

CAF 5013

Location: Prince George’s Plaza Station, Hyattsville, MD
Operator of Vehicle: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Date of Photo: July 2, 2007

The DC Metrorail will be celebrating its 43rd anniversary later this month, but one of its newer classes of rolling stock is no longer around to commemorate the occasion.  WMATA exercised an option order on its new 7000 Series cars from Kawasaki in order to retire the CAF built 5000 Series trains as opposed to rehabbing them.  Typically, a Metrorail car can have a service life of nearly 40 years if it is rehabilitated or overhauled after about 20 years of service.  However, the CAFs have been lemons in a variety of ways since they arrived on Metro property.  First, their delivery was delayed due to a variety of software and other manufacturing issues.  Once they arrived, the CAF cars derailed more often than the other car classes (fortunately, within train yards except on one occasion), they also broke down more often than the other car classes.  However, the CAFs left positive impressions on WMATA’s history.  They were the first cars to feature the updated interior colors of Potomac Blue, Colonial Burgundy, and Chesapeake Sand, the first cars to have LED exterior destination signage, the first cars to have interior LED next stop displays, the first cars to be delivered with AC traction motors, and the first cars to have a module on the operator’s console to help troubleshoot problems on board the train.

The 5000 Series cars are also notable for being the first heavy rail contract CAF received from a North American agency.  The company has won additional contracts in the US since then, including for the construction of MBTA’s Type 9 cars and Amtrak’s Viewliner IIs.  CAF has also been contracted to build the light rail cars that will be used on the Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs.  I’ve heard other transit fans complain about the quality of CAF products, and they also cite delivery delays on these and other contracts.  However, I’ve been on CAF built trains in Spain and Italy in addition to DC.  In my experience, the CAF trains I have been on in Europe seem to be well constructed and reliable.

WMATA’s 5000 Series cars were removed from revenue service in October 2018, although some are being used as part of work trains as of this writing.  And while they may not be a part of Metro’s story going forward and didn’t even remain in service for 20 years, the CAF cars will always be a part of Metro’s history in the early 21st century.

For more photos of WMATA’s 5000 Series cars, please click here.

Rail Photo of the Month: February 2019

CQ310 134

CQ310 134

Location: Peachtree Center Station, Atlanta, GA
Operator of Vehicle: MARTA
Date of Photo: October 8, 2015

Tomorrow evening, Atlanta will be at the center of most people’s attention in the United States (and around the world as well) when Super Bowl LII kicks off at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  Therefore, it seemed appropriate to draw attention to Atlanta’s transit system by sharing a MARTA photo for the photo of the month.

Although Atlanta’s heavy rail system is quite small considering the size of the metro Atlanta area and the amount of traffic congestion in and around the city, MARTA has proven itself to be quite capable when Atlanta has played host to large events.  This is the third Super Bowl being played in Atlanta, and MARTA was critical in transporting spectators during the 1996 Summer Olympics.  For the Olympic games, MARTA even oversaw an “add on system” of 1,400 buses loaned from other transit agencies to help ferry people to Olympic events.  MARTA was even responsible for paying to fuel these extra buses!  For this Super Bowl, MARTA is running continuous, 24-hour service from 4:00 AM on February 1st through 2:00 AM on February 5th, a total of 94 consecutive hours of service (the system usually shuts down overnight).

So whether you are rooting for Los Angeles or New England, don’t forget to root for the host city and its own transit system!  After all, the 70,000 plus people lucky enough to score a ticket to the game wouldn’t be able to get there otherwise!

For more photos of MARTA, please click here.

Bus Photo of the Month: February 2019

TecnoBus Gulliver 10

TecnoBus Gulliver 10

Location: Via Florida at Largo Argentina, Rome, Italy
Operator of Vehicle: ATAC
Date of Photo: January 29, 2008

Many bus systems throughout the world are beginning to make a strong push towards electric powered vehicles. However, some agencies have already experimented with electric buses, to varying degrees of success.  In 1995, Rome ordered nearly 60 Gulliver electric buses from TecnoBus to run on a handful of routes that could not handle standard size buses.  These buses, in addition to being less than 6 meters (18 feet) long, also did not create vibrations that would damage old buildings in and near the city center.  The original fleet has been since been replaced by newer buses around 2010.  Unfortunately, the entire fleet was sidelined in 2014 after several buses caught fire.  Last year, the Rome municipality and TecnoBus reached an agreement to “revamp” the buses in an effort to get them back on the street.  More recently, TecnoBus was purchased by the Italian firm Enertronica.

For more photos of Rome’s TecnoBus Gulliver buses, please click here.

Bus Photo of the Month: January 2019

MAN NG-313 37192

MAN NG-313 37192

Location: Arlozorov Terminal (2000 Terminal), Tel Aviv, Israel
Operator of Vehicle: Egged
Date of Photo: December 8, 2009

The “New” Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv gets a lot of attention from the transitfan, urban planning, and architecture communities, generally for all the wrong reasons.  As a result, those who can avoid traveling through the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station do so when they can, opting instead to use Arlozorov Terminal, adjacent to the Tel Aviv Central Railway Station.  Unlike most major bus terminals in Israel, the Arlozorov Terminal is not located in a large building that also contains retail and other space in the transit terminal.  Instead, it is open air, has no building, and passengers just walk straight in from the street to their platform.  (This also means there is no security check prior to boarding the bus, unlike at just about every other major bus terminal in the country.)  Although perhaps it is a bit utilitarian, it is certainly the easier of the two major intercity terminals to use in Tel Aviv.  Recently, a reconstruction project has taken place here, and the new and improved terminal layout with boarding location changes and the like is officially being implemented today.  It will still be superior to the Central Bus Station (how could it not?) but perhaps a little less trecherous for pedestrians trying to reach the bus platforms in the middle of the terminal to get to where they want to go.

For more photos of the buses in Tel Aviv, please click here.

Rail Photo of the Month: January 2019

R179 3150

R179 3150

Location: 125th Street/Saint Nicholas Avenue Station, New York, NY
Operator of Vehicle: MTA New York City Transit
Date of Photo: December 23, 2018

It seems appropriate to welcome the new Gregorian year with a photo of one of the newest New York City Subway trains, the R179.  This is the first time I’ve taken a photo of an R179.  These B Division cars began revenue testing in November 2017, officially entered revenue service in December 2017, and currently operate on the C and J lines.  The R179 is yet another class of “New Technology Trains” (NTT) that include the R142, R142A, R160, and R188 car types.  The extent to which the NTTs have become the rolling stock associated with New York City Transit can be seen in how as I was taking these pictures, other transit fans at the station awaiting the vintage holiday train thought these cars were R160s.  While the R160s and R179s do look similar, they are not the same.  While the R32s and R42s that will be replaced by the R179s are not likely to be retired prior to the end of the Canarsie Line partial shutdown in 2020, the New York City transit fleet is gradually becoming more homogeneous as time goes on.

For more photos of the New York City Subway, please click here.