Written by Phil Cerroni
DART’s new fleet of smoother-riding, cleaner-running buses is taking to the streets. The new fleet began service on Jan. 28 and will replace the agency’s mix of diesel and liquefied natural gas buses by 2015. The 459 buses are running exclusively on compressed natural gas, which will cut the agency’s annual fuel costs by nearly two-thirds by the end of 2015 and significantly limit harmful emissions.
The new buses are 40-foot models with a new low floor design for easier entry, larger windows for increased visibility, a wider aisle that allows greater flexibility with wheelchairs and mobility devices, interior cameras for safety, and has LED interior monitors located in the front and rear for displaying visual images, including next stop, rider alerts, passenger information and stop requests. DART plans to put approximately five new buses into service every week to replace the existing fleet.
The 30- and 40-foot buses mark the latest phase of DART’s clean transit fuels program. The $210 million contract with North American Bus Industries Inc. of Anniston, AL, one of the nation’s largest CNG bus orders, will allow the agency to introduce heavy-duty buses to replace the current fleet of liquefied natural gas and clean diesel buses, which began service in 1998. The agency also built four CNG fueling stations at its bus and mobility management operations facilities.
In October DART introduced a new fleet of 123 14- to 17-passenger buses. The smaller buses are part of an effort to maintain the same level of service at lower costs and are manufactured by ARBOC Specialty Vehicles of Middlebury, Ind. All of DART’s new buses feature low-floor boarding to make it easier and quicker for customers to get on or off the bus, just like the agency’s light rail vehicles.