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Two hybrid buses are here in town

A hybrid New Flyer articulated bus (left) and a hybrid Nova bus (right) are in town for evaluations right now.

A hybrid New Flyer articulated bus (left) and a hybrid Nova bus (right) are in town for evaluations right now. Photos by David Lam.

We’ve got two diesel-electric hybrid buses in town right now!

The Province wrote about the Nova hybrid bus about a week ago, but we actually have an articulated hybrid bus from New Flyer around too.

The Nova is a “pilot” bus — it’s still the property of Nova and it’s here for evaluation. Our staff is currently examining it from top to bottom to identify any issues, and then the bus will be sent back to Montreal so Nova can correct them for the rest of our order. (We have 141 Nova hybrids coming in this year!)

The hybrid New Flyer articulated bus is also undergoing some evaluation. The bus is still the property of New Flyer, who is correcting some issues on the bus before presenting it to us for acceptance. In the coming weeks, we’ll get about two to three articulated hybrids a week until we reach our full order of 39.

All this adds up to 180 hybrid buses arriving this year in total. The 39 New Flyer hybrids will be in service by September 2009. Eighteen of these buses will expand the fleet, and 21 will replace the high-floor articulated buses.

The 141 Nova hybrids will be in service by December 2009. As the Province article talked about, 109 of these buses will replace older vehicles, and 32 will expand the fleet.

Plus, let me repeat a few fun facts about the hybrids, which you may have seen in the Earth Day post:

  • The diesel-electric hybrids will save between 15-20% on fuel consumption, meaning they’re sending out about 15-20% fewer greenhouse gas emissions into the air.
  • As well, when we compare the hybrids to the buses they are replacing, the particulate matter levels (the smoke they send out) will be reduced by 90-100%.
  • The transmission of the hybrid buses also means a smoother ride with no more jerky gear changes. For those who care, here’s the specifics on that: the hybrid transmission has electric motors in place of the clutches that would be in a normal transmission, and the electric motors are capable of creating any gearing ratio, meaning that the hybrid transmission is a CVT (continuously variable transmission) which never actually shifts gears. No gears to shift means no clutches to wear, and no jerky gear changes for passengers!

And mad props to David Lam from the Trans-Vancouver bus photo site, who scooped EVERYONE with the photos you see above. I think he managed to snap the buses about three weeks ago! Check out his galleries to see more photos of the New Flyer hybrid and for the Nova hybrid.


  • By daniel, April 28, 2009 @ 5:39 pm

    hey jen do u know when the skytrains are going to be in service?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 29, 2009 @ 8:49 am

    Hi Daniel, funny you ask this — somebody else on another post asked the exact same question within an hour of your comment! Anyway, I’m told end of May is when we’ll start seeing them in service. Testing and commissioning has taken longer than expected. I’ll cross my fingers and hope end of May doesn’t change :)

  • By Dan, April 29, 2009 @ 9:03 am

    I’m very curious cause I remember not too long ago the “High Floor” Artics (The 3000 Series) Went into Fleet overhaul about 5 years ago. I’m just wondering why they don’t use the high floor’s on some of the most busiest routes like maybe the 99 or on school specials as trippers (as school specials never get wheelchairs and they would be packed as sardines) Will they be holding onto the high floors as spares for the Olympics or if the system has a crisis (Example Hybrid Fleet Breaks Down) Just an idea cause I really miss the High Floor Artics out in Burnaby. Even though the lifts can stall and can be a little bit of a challenge for seniors. They are a great backup bus. And maybe be kept as spares. I know BC Transit did that with about 75 – 200 of the replacement buses. Just an idea. Can’t wait to see how well the hybrids preform.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 29, 2009 @ 9:05 am

    The high-floor artics will be retired when the hybrids come in, but kept around for additional support during the Olympics. I believe they will be retired permanently after that.

  • By daniel, April 29, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

    hey tahts when my b-day is!!!!!!!

  • By Karen, April 30, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

    The Nova is a “pilot” bus — it’s still the property of Nova and it’s here for evaluation. Our staff is currently examining it from top to bottom to identify any issues, and then the bus will be sent back to Montreal so Nova can correct them for the rest of our order.

    Jhenifer, I’ve noticed while riding the buses that both the Nova buses and (especially) the articulated New Flyers buses have some issues with their doors closing on people. Is feedback from the the public’s experience on these features able to be incorporated into the design of the hybrids? Or are their door closing systems different enough for this to be a moot point? I ask just because I’ve been traumatized so many times by seeing people taken by surprise by violently closing doors that eat people’s groceries, clothes, even whole limbs (!); and rectifying the issue in some buses coming for the future is a great start, if it can’t be done for all buses, as would be ideal.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 30, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

    Really? I haven’t heard much about the doors closing on people. I’ll ask around and see what I can find.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, April 30, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

    Okay, so I’ve talked to fleet management, and your experience notwithstanding, we’re not getting complaints about the back doors closing *on* people. If anything, people complain about doors not opening at all.

    Fleet management has two recommendations if you observe a bus with doors not functioning properly:

    1) Inform the driver. The driver can evaluate the severity of the problem, can write up the bus for repairs if necessary, and can discontinue using the backdoors, if warranted.

    2) If you don’t inform the bus driver: record the bus number (it’s inside the bus near the front doors, and in a few locations outside the bus), time, and date, and send a complaint to TransLink using the form on TransLink’s website. They will direct the concern to the appropriate department.

    And courtesy of fleet management, here’s a really great description of how the door mechanism works on the buses:

    Our fleet up to and including 2007 vehicles is equipped with poles on the rear doors that you push on to get the doors to open. Once open, they stay open for three seconds before starting to close. They have an optical sensor to tell if people are walking past the door, similar to those ding-dong chimes when you walk into some small retail shops. If the optical sensor is triggered, the 3-second timer starts from zero again. If a passenger tries to exit the bus once the doors have started closing (there will be an lightly-audible “pshhhhh” sound), then the rubber strip on the edge of the door will stop the door from injuring that passenger. When the rubber strip (the “sensitive edge”) is triggered, the doors open back up for three seconds. Every morning, as part of a driver’s “pre-trip inspection,” the driver is supposed to test the functionality of the door bars, optical eye, and sensitive edge. If those safety features aren’t working, the bus shouldn’t be carrying passengers.

    On our newer buses (2008 and up), we have a new door exit mechanism. The new system uses an ultrasonic sensor (kind-of like radar) to detect if somebody wants to leave the bus, and if somebody’s in the way of the bus door. These buses also have the sensitive edge for safety. You’ll know if you’re on one of these buses because it doesn’t have a bar or a pole to grab to get the door to open– there’s a decal on the door that says “touch here to open doors,” or something to that effect. Again, these doors’ safety features should be tested by the driver on a daily basis. The Nova buses in North Vancouver are equipped with this system. I believe some of our articulated trolley buses in Vancouver are equipped with this system as well. When first introduced, the manufacturer did not configure the doors properly, so they worked “most of the time,” but not all of the time. It’s a good thing we forced the door manufacturer to include sensitive edges, otherwise we might have had some injuries. Most of the customer complaints were about doors not opening at all. Those doors have since been reprogrammed for consistent operation, as far as I know.

    The new buses we’ll be receiving this year are equipped with the same ultrasonic door sensors. With any luck they’ll come properly configured from the factory.

  • By Henry, April 30, 2009 @ 9:39 pm

    to add to the new ultrasonic door sensors which are on all the articulated trolleys. Alot of people complain it doesn’t open and i’m a bus driver and it’s fustrating to always hear “back door back door”. The reason why it doesn’t open is because passengers start touching before the green light is on. The ones who are impatient are the ones who can’t seem to activate the back door. Also if you are wearing a black glove, the back doors won’t activate, it seems like the ultrasonic sensors gets absorbed by the glove.

  • By East Side Rider, April 30, 2009 @ 11:42 pm

    I wondered about that…. I’m going to test out your theory tommorrow! 8-)

    Yes the back door problem I often see is when the bus stops…. the front door opens to load, but nothing happens at the back. The message is to touch the door, but nothing happens. What I notice is the green light doesn’t even come on, making it look like the driver didn’t turn the door control far enough (how does the door control work anyways). I always thought the door control on the
    new buses were faulty.

  • By Dan, May 1, 2009 @ 12:58 am

    In regards to Henry’s response. I have to agree with him 100% on this issue as well. My big concern i have noticed is people using exsessive force on any of the low floor coaches by slamming the “pole” back and forth to open the rear door and get extremely pissed when the door does not open properly. I also notice more of a delay and more rear door problems as people slam on the doors and force them open as they sneak through the rear doors of the buses causing delays and damage to the coach. The activation of the rear doors work fine. When i use it but i do fine the “Touch sensor” very tricky and very hard to use. As for the pole activated system, it works fine. Just an extremely simple step. WAIT for the green light and gently touch the bar, not shake it like you are ready to kill someone. Maybe this can be mentioned to CMBC Security & Management as it is becoming a bit of a major problem and safety issue on runs like The #3 Main/Downtown, #20 Victoria/Downtown, and the #135 SFU/Burrard Stn. Just a few thoughts of advice.

  • By ross, May 1, 2009 @ 6:32 am

    The ‘rage syndrome’ with people rattling on rear doors is due to the fact that buses often dont move fast enough. I donno about Van, but here in the Big Smoke, buses are practically unusable because they stop every 5 seconds.. it seems.
    Why construct bus stops every 5 or 10 feet? The thing hardly ever gets time to get up to speed before it is slowing down for something.. either a traffic light, congestion, or yet another bus stop.
    Seriously, they need a separate arrangement for people who are so old or so infirm that they cannot even walk 1-2 blocks to catch a bus. You’ll never get the able bodied out of their cars with that kind of service… no matter how bad global warming, pollution et al gets.
    Unless you have those things, you wont get people into buses. SKYTRAIN is fine, but buses? No, no, and no.

  • By Eugene Wong, May 1, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

    I wish that some buses in Surrey had closer stops. As it is, some routes have so few people using them, that stopping every 100 meters would hardly do anything.

    Maybe all sections of routes that don’t get a lot of riders should start off with more bus stops. As people get used to walking more to those stops, then Translink could remove some stops.

    For example, the #329 has very few people getting on & off the bus along 124 St. I suggest that they place bus stops at every block.

    Jhenifer, what is preventing Translink from doing this?

  • By ben K, May 2, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

    I have found the “touch here to open” style doors to be quite a downgrade from the “press the pole” doors.

    Since there is no tactile involement between the passenger and the switch, one can’t be sure whether he has successfully requested the door. Conversely, on a crowded bus, the mere presence of people standing by the door can keep the switch on. I’ve watched this repeating open-and-close cycle hold up departures on several occasions; it’s frustrating for everyone.

    What was the problem with the poles? Not only was their operation straightforward, but they also provided something to grab onto during transit.

  • By Reva, May 4, 2009 @ 3:21 am

    I agree 100% with ben K’s post above.

    At the very least, I think there needs to be stickers on the doors that say something like “Wait for green light, THEN touch here to open”. (Not to mention something like “keep hands away from this area if you are not using the doors!”)

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, May 5, 2009 @ 8:55 am

    I asked planners at TransLink and CMBC about bus stop placement, and here’s the answer.

    Service planners at CMBC make decisions about bus stop locations along with municipalities. There are typically many considerations, but generally it’s a fine balance between speed and convenience.

    TransLink in fact has a guiding document for decisions such as this, and it’s called “Transit Service Guidelines” — a copy of which can be found on our website.

    According to the TSGs:

    Page 7

    “To promote faster service, the distance between bus stops should not be less than the following, as long as safe access for customers can be provided:


    BUS 250 metres (both near & farside stops
    permitted at major transfer points)

    EXPRESS COACH 250 metres (in local service area)

    B-LINE 500 metres to 1,500 metres average spacing on route

    COMMUNITY SHUTTLE Flexible to serve local conditions”

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, May 5, 2009 @ 9:02 am

    ben K:

    I asked fleet management about the poles, and here’s what I’ve been told:

    -The poles were unreliable (requiring frequent maintenance), and rattled (nuisance noise).
    -The optical eye was finicky, resulting in doors that wouldn’t close (requiring maintenance).
    -People tended to use the poles as something to hang onto while the bus was in-service. This is a little dangerous. The doors of the new buses are equipped with handles to help people as they’re stepping off the bus.
    -The poles didn’t work before the green light was lit, either (I remember people grabbing and shaking the poles to try to get the doors to open, wondering why they weren’t working).

  • By Eugene Wong, May 5, 2009 @ 12:35 pm

    Jhenifer, thank you for the effort that you put into finding this answer. I looked over the documentation, and felt greatly disappointed, especially when I saw this.

    “TransLink will report each year to the TransLink Board on the progress made
    toward achieving the Transit Service Guidelines as part of the Annual Transportation
    Plan, starting in 2005 when more comprehensive service performance information from
    automatic passenger counters becomes available.” [page 16]

    To me, that sounds like, “We are Translink. We are right. You are wrong. You can write a letter, but we won’t do what you want. If you want to use the #329 or #326, then you walk more, or ride the buses longer.”. I couldn’t imagine them changing the rules to suit my needs and the needs of the passengers of those 2 routes.

    They keep thinking in such large numbers, that those 2 routes won’t even show up on their mental radars.

    Frankly, I’m still upset at the way that the route planner treated me when I made a request. He couldn’t do what I wanted because he & the board were too busy.

    Since I have your attention, why do they use the numbering scheme that they do for the community shuttle buses? Even till this day, I still don’t know the routing numbers of the shuttle buses that pass by my home. Is it possible to change it to a letter plus the original 3 digit number?

  • By Dan, May 6, 2009 @ 11:27 am


    I remember when the low floor coaches came into service. The “pole exits” work. It clearly stated in BOLD lettering on all of the older BC Transit coaches (The 7100, 7200 & P3282 – P3308) IT seems like the safety stickers were replaces with smaller to read stickers. That came into effect with the transformation of TransLink in 1999 and it was the “For Safety & Security” sticker series. Since then people started pounding on the door and the “wait for green light” sticker was removed. Each time i use the rear door. I wait for the green light, gently press it and it opens. The only time it never worked is cause someone shook the door and broke it. Maybe reintroduce those stickers and teach people how to use the rear door cause the pole system works just fine and i prefer that system over the sensor.

  • By tek, January 12, 2011 @ 7:55 pm

    Just because something is more fuel efficient doesn’t mean it prevents an equal percentage of emissions. I would bet anequivalent diesel engine with similar capability manufactured 25 years after a previous model would have a reduced carbon footprint while consuming the same amount of fuel.

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