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DaTrain

Has METRORail killed the articulated bus fleet?

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I knew before METRORail was up and running, many routes that were eventually truncated to terminate with the new light rail stations and split in two carried 60 foot articulate buses, such as the 65, 2, 68, 82, 56, and many more. Now that the Main Street Corridor and the paralleling streets in Midtown are reduced to having just one bus route (the 1 Hospital), it also seems like more and more articulates are replaced with regular 40 footers. In the last couple of years until now I noted the 163 Fondren Express was the only route to run 100 percent articulates at least on the workdays. Others that still have them but not as many are the 2, 85, 65, 68, 56

I can understand that METRO doesn't have the full capacity of people to continue having the 60 foot buses but the only advantage over the rest of the fleet is that EVERYBODY gets to have a seat at their own personal comfort and space. If they are going to retire the entire fleet of the articulators how come all this time they bought a fleet of two models of 40 foot hybrids that they couldn't look into new 60 foot buses, particulary hybrid low floors? I don't wanna see Houston lose its distinction of being the only city in Texas and the south to have articulate transit buses only to have another cookie cutter transit system consisting of a fleet of 40 foot buses only or less. I'd rather METRO spend a little extra on new articulates instead of waiting 5 years later for the 81 or 82 routes for example to be overcrowded and constantly remedy it with more 40 footers because it wouldn't be worth it. They'll just go off schedule and bunch up behind the other anyway.

With the Neoplan models disappearing, METRO could still invest in these like this low floor hybrid in Albuquerque (minus the hybrid model face):

Rapid_Ride.jpg

or this one in LA:

File:NABI60brt.jpg

LA METRO uses these on the Metro Rapid system, so I would like for METRO to run these on Westheimer as potential for the second quickline on this heavily travelled corridor by car or public transport behind the 402 Bellaire aka QL2.

Being a city influenced by the auto is one thing and snarling the nose at bus transit is another, but it isn't really time to go R.I.P. Houston Articulated Transit Bus. But I'm still backing METRORail expansion regardless even though routing is debated but that ain't the point right now.

Edited by DaTrain

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I rode on one of those and I was one of three people on it. Funny, that's what they used to say about the idea of rail in Houston. This was on the 10 Willowbend line.

I guess they're too long to send down Westheimer or other places that might put them to better use? (Those buses are indeed nice inside though)

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To answer your question, METRO stated on its blog awhile back that the articulated buses simply don't make economic sense. I don't recall the exact numbers but the gist of it was that they carry, say, 50% more passengers but cost twice as much to maintain. I, for one, don't mind one bit if they retire all the artics as long as they run 40 footers more often, since this is more convenient for passengers. Hopefully the schedule changes that go into effect tomorrow will make frequencies more reliable by reducing the bus bunching you mention.

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To answer your question, METRO stated on its blog awhile back that the articulated buses simply don't make economic sense. I don't recall the exact numbers but the gist of it was that they carry, say, 50% more passengers but cost twice as much to maintain. I, for one, don't mind one bit if they retire all the artics as long as they run 40 footers more often, since this is more convenient for passengers. Hopefully the schedule changes that go into effect tomorrow will make frequencies more reliable by reducing the bus bunching you mention.

Is there a direct link to this about artics not making economic sense? And I don't really understand what they really meant when you said that. Sorry to ask, it's been awhile since I posted last time.

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First, the 82 for whatever reason has never used articulated buses. Not to say that it doesn't desperately need them, but Metro has never ran a consistent fleet of articulated buses on this route. It's sister route, the 53, has one articulated bus that runs (empty) during rush hour. It's most like an interlined trip from a route that uses articulated buses regularly or it's a driver that's in good with the starter. The bus is usually 4502 or 4540.

The Neoplan buses are old and worn out. They've aged TERRIBLY. Even the 4400 series buses used on the Park and Ride routes are really showing their age. A number of the artics have already been retired and look for more to go as the (B)Orion VII Hybrids arrive later in the year. A Metro manager told me that they want to have only two types of buses; a 40 foot bus for local routes and 45 foot buses for Express/Park and Ride. Hence the reason the slow, cold, and annoying New Flyer 4200 series minis are leaving en masse.

Another problem is what I call the articulated jinx. A bus route will suffer severe passenger overloads but once the articulated buses show up, ridership drops. This happened on the 1 - Hospital, 4 - Beechnut, 8 - South Main, and the 68 - Brays Bayou Crosstown. I think alot of that has to do with how Metro schedules it's routes and places the buses. A dedicated articulated trip on the 68 would be placed behind an overloaded 40 foot bus trip.

After the light rail line opened and a number of westside bus routes were truncated, ridership on the 1 and the 8 surged. The 8 was so crowded at times people were left behind at stops. Metro killed that by seperating the Willowbend branch (now a poorly performing stand alone route) and cutting half the trips along Main street that would eventually end up on Willowbend. Metro also combined the route with Yale and it became an extremely long route plagued by late buses and overcrowding. Eventually people just gave up and rode the light rail which was Metro's goal all along. Eventually the 8 was seperated from the Yale (another bus that until recently was running empty articulateds, a holdover from it's days hooked to the busy 65 - Bissonnet) and truncated at Wheeler Station. Ridership has never recovered.

Metro bus ridership has fallen enough where most route don't need articulated buses anymore. Adding extra 40 foot buses would fit the bill better and are more cost effective.

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The Neoplan buses are old and worn out. They've aged TERRIBLY. Even the 4400 series buses used on the Park and Ride routes are really showing their age. A number of the artics have already been retired and look for more to go as the (B)Orion VII Hybrids arrive later in the year. A Metro manager told me that they want to have only two types of buses; a 40 foot bus for local routes and 45 foot buses for Express/Park and Ride. Hence the reason the slow, cold, and annoying New Flyer 4200 series minis are leaving en masse.

This is basically spot on. Not only are the artics showing their age, but the parts for the models METRO uses are difficult to find when they break down (which is quite often, actually).

Some of the biggest issues with the suburban artics:

1) Compressors for the AC units often go out

2) Transmission has become very unreliable in its old age

3) Overheating

The local fleet is a bit newer so the vehicles are likely to stick around a little longer.

Edited by The Great Hizzy!

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