Location: South Eads Street at South Rotary Road, Arlington, VA
Operator of Vehicle: Alexandria Transit Company
Date of Photo: July 19, 2018
For those of you who know the DC area well, your first reaction to seeing this photo is that one isn’t supposed to be taking photographs at this location. It is a reasonable first reaction, as this photo was taken on the Pentagon Reservation, and photography is generally prohibited there. But notice my use of the word generally. Photography is allowed at the September 11th Memorial adjacent to the Pentagon (though the DoD was reluctant to permit this when the memorial opened). However, this isn’t where the photo was taken. So what’s the secret? I did have authorization to be taking photos at the Pentagon that morning, and there were Pentagon police officers nearby at the time. However, like many things that go on at the Pentagon, I can’t really reveal how I got this authorization or how one might go about doing so (other than to say the circumstances were somewhat unique, so anyone else trying to replicate them is likely to be unsuccessful).
As for the bus itself, as rare as photos of DASH buses of any sort at the Pentagon might be, photos of Orion V DASH buses are becoming a rarity as well. This specific unit is about 16 years old, is among the last high floor buses remaining in the DASH fleet. Catch these while you can anywhere in the DASH service area, because they are due to be reassigned to the “big bus garage in the sky” in the very near future as newer Gillig Advantages arrive.
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: Little Falls Parkway and Dorset Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD
Operator of Vehicle: Ride On (Montgomery County Transit)
Date of Photo: June 11, 2014
Ride On is the county owned and operated bus system in Montgomery County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. It’s hard to believe, but about 15 years ago, the fleet only had a handful of 40 foot buses. Nowadays, 40 footers dominate. While the first order of 30 foot buses in a number of years was made in 2014, no new 35 foot buses have been ordered in about 10 years. As a result, as the 2016 Gillig Phantoms arrive on the property, the Orion Vs, like the one pictured here, will be retired, leaving no diesel 35 footers in the Ride On fleet and even fewer buses remaining in the “traditional” blue and white scheme. In addition, the arrival of the new Gilligs will mark the retirement of Ride On’s last high floor buses, as Ride On’s fleet will be entirely low floor.
Photos of the new Gilligs, which also feature a new unit numbering scheme, will be plentiful in the months and years to come, so enjoy this oldie but goodie while you can!
For more photos of the Ride On 35 foot Orion Vs, please click here.