This bus is on loan to New York from Belgium. (Photo courtesy of NYC Transit)
Outside of red telephone booths, nothing screams “London” quite like a double-decker bus. The ubiquitous vehicles line the streets of England’s capital day in and day out, and they are positively European.
Four months ago, NYC Transit President Howard Roberts mused about the return of double-decker buses to New York City. His dreams, it seems, will become a reality.
In an effort to increase bus capacity and respond to ridership demands, the MTA is set to audition double-decker buses on the streets of New York. The first prototype, a bus on loan from a Belgium-based transportation company, will hit the streets on Thursday and will run as part of a 35-day test as the transit authority attempts to assess how these buses navigate New York City streets and traffic, what level of maintenance they require and how they handle loading and unloading.
“This is not for show. This is not just to titillate the New York public. We really like this bus,” MTA CEo and Executive Director Elliot “Lee” Sander said during a press conference yesterday. “There is a very real chance that New Yorkers will see this in the future. We hope it passes the test.”
Pete Donohue of The Daily News has more on this unique bus:
The agency will seek rider opinions, which likely will include notice of low ceilings. The first level measures 71 inches – 5 feet 11 inches – from floor to ceiling. The upper deck is just 67inches, or 5-feet-7. The average American man is 5-feet-9.
Except for tourist buses, double-deckers haven’t been a regular feature of the city streetscape since the early 1950s, when Dwight Eisenhower was President, gasoline was 20 cents a gallon and television shows were in black and white.
A double-decker with 81 upholstered seats and tinted windows will start making runs on Thursday. The largest bus currently in service, the so-called accordion or articulated bus, has 62 seats. During the 35-day test, the double-decker is expected to be deployed on several routes, most likely including the x17 express between Manhattan and Staten Island, the M5 Limited and the M15, officials said.
It’s tough to get a sense of how much standing room these buses have. But it sounds as though these buses will more than complement the buses currently on the street. Notably, these double-decker buses are more fuel-efficient than the articulated buses current running on the crowded Manhattan streets. As they also take up less horizontal space, it’s a win-win situation for both the MTA and other Manhattan drivers.
On the down side, these buses can’t handle cross-park traffic. The transverses in Central Park don’t feature clearance high enough to allow these double-decker buses to run across town through the park.
In the end, it’s hard not to like this idea. It combines practicality, environmentalism and nostalgia all in one. These buses, if they pass the test of a public not so keen on the buses, would be a welcome addition to the New York City public transit system.