The wheels on the bus were going round and round Wednesday, when about 20 Greater Trail residents got a sneak peak at BC Transit’s bus prototype that was tested on Trail’s grueling hills.
“It’s definitely a smaller more compact bus and it’s going to be more maneuverable in the tighter areas of the city,” said Sharman Thomas, Kootenay Boundary Transit System supervisor.
“It would potentially be a very good bus for some of the smaller routes such as Columbia Heights, Binns, Sunningdale and in the future if we were to expand to include a regional airport route, it could be viable for that run as well.”
The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, with funding and administrative assistance from BC Transit, operates transit in Greater Trail.
The Canadian-designed but Chinese-made prototype known as the Vicinity is driving across the province to ensure it can withstand challenging routes. BC Transit plans on purchasing 15 of the smaller vehicles soon to add to its fleet during a trial period.
“There is a demand for smaller buses.,” said Mike Davis, chief operating officer for BC Transit.
“There are a lot of neighbourhoods where the ridership doesn’t need a big, large bus and if we can find a smaller vehicle that’s quieter for the neighbourhood, easier on the neighbouhood streets and easier on the pocket book for the taxpayers then it’s a win.”
“I think in this region between Trail and Nelson it’s a torture test for vehicles and one of the things going there we want to make
sure we have a hearty, reliable vehicle so I’m sure this area will rate high on where we put some of those 15.”
The busload of politicians and transit staff watched hesitantly as the bus driver squeezed up Topping Street’s narrow road and continued along the “old Italian highway.”
“Look at how close we are to the railing here, I mean, and with the other ones you can add another six inches to it so I just hope that we get one or two of these, that’s my desire,” said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs.
“Trail and Nelson are the two most challenging communities in the province in perspective of hills and narrow streets. We should be rewarded with a couple of these.”
The prototype is half the size of a typical 40-seat bus and is considered ideal for smaller community routes.
In addition to the 23 regular seats, the new vehicle holds another 16 people standing and accommodates wheelchairs from the front entrance by kneeling at the curb to allow chairs to roll straight on board.
The Vicinity is cheaper to buy – going for about $250,000 rather than the approximate $450,000 it costs for the larger buses being used – and is also more affordable to operate.
The fuel-efficient vehicle uses cleaner burning and greener engine technology with a “state-of-the-art diesel 2010 epa engine.”
Montrose Mayor Griff Welsh is pleased to see BC Transit thinking green – steps his community has made toward reducing their carbon footprint have include the purchase of an electric vehicle.
Though he was initially concerned that the smaller vehicle will not be efficient for the load of students that use local public transit, he understands now that the new vehicles will not wipe out the larger versions completely.
“It’s great for inner city. Apparently we’re going to have an integrated service where the big ones will still do the regional work and school board work and these smaller ones will take care of the smaller routes out to Montrose and Fruitvale in the afternoon.”
The prototype stopped in Trail and Nelson before moving onto Kelowna on its tour of the province.