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Agencies Double Up: Double Deckers Gain Ground; Toronto, Snohomish County Add Vehicles to Fleets

Double-decker buses are becoming a more prominent part of public transit fleets: Metrolinx in Toronto is adding more than 250 of the vehicles to the 127 it already operates, while Community Transit in Snohomish County, WA, which introduced double-deckers in 2007, recently ordered 17 new vehicles to add to the 45 currently in its fleet.

Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca and Metrolinx Chief Operating Officer Greg Percy recently visited the Toronto facility of Alexander Dennis Canada to mark the delivery of the first three low-floor Environ500 SuperLo buses in the 250-bus order. The agency expects to place 45 of the vehicles in service in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area by the end of 2016.

These vehicles provide double-deck travel at a unique low height of 3.9 meters (12 feet, 9 inches), which allows them to operate in low-bridge areas where standard double-deckers cannot.

Community Transit ordered 17 traditional double-decker Enviro500 buses, 13 feet and 6 inches high, from the company’s U.S. affiliate, Alexander Dennis Inc. The order consists of 13 to accommodate new service on existing routes and four to replace 60-foot buses in commuter service.

Standard Buses Also on the Way
Previously, Communty Transit authorized contracts for 40 standard (single-decker) diesel buses: 14 60-foot buses from New Flyer of America to replace older vehicles and 26 40-foot buses from Gillig, to expand the fleet in preparation for a voter-approved expansion of service. These contracts have options for the combined purchase of up to 120 more buses through 2021.

As the agency prepares for the opening of its second Swift BRT line, the system plans to purchase 15 60-foot BRT buses that will be configured and branded the same as its 15 current Swift-branded vehicles.

The Snohomish County system also has an option to purchase 40 more double-deckers under a joint contract with Sound Transit and Kitsap Transit. Sound Transit currently has five of the vehicles in service and recently announced it is purchasing 32 more for its service between Snohomish and King counties, operated by Community Transit.

Community Transit is preparing to increase bus service levels by 14 percent, funded through a 0.3 percent sales tax approved by voters last year. Earlier this year, the system introduced two new routes, restructured two existing routes and added new commuter bus service to Seattle; additional bus trips within Snohomish County are approved to start in March 2017.

Sound Transit, which provides service to Snohomish County as well as two others, recently ordered 32 double-decker buses from Alexander Dennis for its routes in the county, bringing its total double-decker fleet to 37. The 81-seat buses will replace 56-seat articulated buses—a 30 percent increase in passenger capacity; production is scheduled to begin in November, with the first deliveries in April 2017.

Sound Transit contracts with Community Transit to operate its Snohomish County-based routes. The agency is also reserving an option to purchase 43 more double decker buses in the future, making the entire Snohomish County fleet double deckers.

The articulated buses are only five years old and will be reassigned to King County routes, 16 to replace vehicles that have reached the end of their useful life and the rest for future service expansions on ST Express routes operated by the county.

Other public transit agencies are also giving double-decker buses a spin.

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority recently road-tested an Alexander Dennis double-decker bus on a route that serves Hartsfield Jackson International Airport and later on a different route.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC), Reno, NV, recently tested an Alexander Dennis Environ double-decker bus on several routes: RAPID BRT, intercity service to and from Carson City and one regular route. RTC deployed survey takers on the bus to receive rider feedback and invited the public to comment in an online survey.

In Austin, TX, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently tested an Alexander Dennis double-decker bus for two weeks as part of its regular MetroExpress service. This pilot program will help the agency determine if double-decker buses are a feasible option on heavy commuter corridors. The double-decker operated as an additional vehicle on the route, with no fare charged during the pilot period.


Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca, left, and Tracy MacCharles, the Ontario minister responsible for accessibility, joined Metrolinx Chief Operating Officer Greg Percy at a recent visit to Toronto facility of Alexander Dennis Canada.

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