Double decker buses will operate on Metro Vancouver’s public transit system for the first time beginning late next week.
Earlier today at its New Westminster headquarters, TransLink unveiled one of the two double deckers that will run on various suburban long-haul routes over the next three months as part of a pilot project.
The Enviro 500 model of buses from UK-based bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis are the same length as a standard 40-ft bus and can fit 80 seats – an 83% increase in seating capacity over the existing highway coaches. The majority of the seats on the double deckers are located in the upper deck.
The lower deck is fully accessible, providing space for up to four passengers using mobility devices, while the low-ceiling upper deck – with a height of just 5’7″ – is accessible by staircase.
Security cameras mounted on the upper deck also provide passengers with the ability to gauge if there is space in the upper deck before making an effort to climb the stairs. A live feed video screen at the base of the staircase displays the seat availability upstairs.
Both two-door double decker buses will rotate on five routes – traveling toward Vancouver from Langley, Surrey, White Rock, and Delta – that currently experience crowding, including:
“By operating these double decker buses, we can reduce the chance of being passed up, and we can improve service quality while carrying more people and meet that future demand,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond, who also described the buses as “more comfortable” and “fun”.
These buses provide panoramic views from the upper deck and are more comfortable than the 60-ft-long, three-door articulated buses for the long-haul routes it will service.
“Articulated buses driving on highways at highway speeds are not a very comfortable ride,” said Desmond. “Articulated buses work best in an urban environment like our B-Lines. For this type of service, you really want everyone to be able to sit and no stand. Articulated buses are very urban and have many standees.”
The public transit authority selected a low-height model of double decker bus to ensure it could overcome all overhead obstacles on routes, including the low clearance of the George Massey Tunnel.
Prior to the launch of the pilot project, all the routes and potential reroutes for the double decker buses had to be surveyed for obstacles, such as low branches, wires, and signs that could come in contact with the upper deck. Any required changes were sent to the municipal governments.
This process involved modifying an old 40-ft bus with overhead frames to create a mock double decker.
The three-month pilot project will allow TransLink to receive feedback from passengers, drivers, and mechanics before pursuing a large order of the buses. Between 50 and 60 double decker buses could eventually be ordered, with plans to procure at least 32 buses by 2019.
TransLink currently has 1,350 buses across its entire fleet.
Alexander Dennis is one of the world’s largest suppliers of double decker buses for public transit use, including systems in Victoria, Seattle, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and across the UK. Double decker buses were first introduced to Victoria about 17 years ago.