Home Buses New BRT-focused bus debuts in the Bronx

New BRT-focused bus debuts in the Bronx

by Benjamin Kabak

Meet the latest addition to New York City’s extensive bus fleet. The Nova Bus LFS, which debuted in mid-January along the Bx12, is being called the bus of the future by New York City Transit. First announced last June, these articulated buses feature three doors, low floors and clean engine technology. Better still, this vehicle was built by workers in Plattsburgh, New York, and it truly is a product of the MTA’s state-wide impact.

Right now, the bus above is one of the 90 Transit expect to receive. These new buses will run along the city’s Select Bus Service corridors and these buses were designed with an eye toward speeding up bus service. “This is the perfect operation for a low-floor bus with three wide entry/exit doors,” Joseph Smith, Transit’s senior vice president at the Department of Buses, said. “Our SBS service is designed to move large numbers of people quickly and efficiently. Adding one door and subtracting two steps helps to accomplish that.”

The MTA recently provided a fact sheet about the new bus model, and it seems to be a nice one. The LFS is 62 feet long — or slightly longer than the standard subway cars on the lettered lines. It can fit 54 seated customers and another 58 standees for a total capacity of 112. “Boasting corrosion-free outer skin panels and frame along with improved fuel economy from its clean diesel engine and smart transmission, this technically advanced bus is expected to cost less to operate and maintain during the course of its service life,” Transit’s release said. It also features a rear window — a relic of buses from decades past when the engine components did not block the back.

With the addition of this bus to the fleet, the MTA is moving ahead with its plans to support the bus system and make it more than the inconvenient transit step child. The low floors allow for faster street-level boarding and combined with the pre-boarding fare payment systems, should help speed up what can be painfully slow bus service. Now if only the city would propose those physically-separated bus lanes.

After the jump, a view of the inside of the Nova Bus LFS with the rear window barely visible in the back. All photos courtesy of New York City Transit.

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pete February 2, 2010 - 1:36 pm

Better still, this vehicle was built by workers in Plattsburgh, New York, and it truly is a product of the MTA’s state-wide impact.

Its going to be worse. You can’t bid on NY state transportation contracts unless you pay to play with useless factories in upstate NY. This is just a pork scheme for Albany politicians. Imagine how much variety and how much cheaper public transit vehicles were if they weren’t limited to Kawasaki/Alstom/Bombardier, which are the only 3 that can ever bid on rail vehicles in NY state.

AK February 2, 2010 - 1:44 pm

I am equally cynical about the fact that the buses/trains are built upstate, and this type of politicking certainly is not limited to public transit needs. For instance, at the recent Board of Elections meeting to determine which voting machines will replace the levered voting machines in NYC, there was significant discussion about which company would produce the most jobs in New York State. The Board of Elections is meant to be a politically insulated body that does not need to respond to the policy failures of local, state, and federal governments regarding job creation, but instead has the quasi-sacred duty (in our secular republic) of assuring fair elections.

Now it would be one thing if the MTA/upstate politicians had a quid pro quo like “deal” in which the MTA would take upstate manufacturing into account and, in turn, the upstate politicians would acknowledge the importance of MTA’s mission to the state’s economy as a whole by adequately funding the agency. That type of a “deal” would raise a whole host of good-government problems, but at least there would be a trade-off in favor of the MTA. As it now stands, as Pete notes, the MTA must pay above-market rates for vehicles with nothing in return…

That said, the people of Plattsburgh have produced a fine-looking bus.

Josh K February 2, 2010 - 2:50 pm

Of all the potential things in the universe to complain about, I can’t believe this even makes the list.

There are companies that make rail vehicles for the MTA that are not located in NYS. I cite the nearly 30 locomotives that MNRR has purchased from Brookville Locomotive works in Brookville, PA. Or the Genesis P-32AC-DM locomotives that MNRR purchased from GE, which were built in Erie, PA. Most of the current older (1970’s) subway cars weren’t built in NY. Only the newer ones are.

For passenger coaches, MUs and subway cars, what other companies are there other than Alstom, Kawasaki and Bombardier that have the knowledge to build to US specs? Many of the other builders went out of business because no cities in the US were buying. Pullman, St. Louis Car Co. and Budd are all long gone. The other foreign builders can’t meet FRA requirements with their existing designs for railroad vehicles.

The fact that these three companies have built factories in NY is in part due to the huge volume of work that the MTA has awarded to these companies over the years. Why shouldn’t politicians try to make sure that state money is spent on things that maximize the benefit for NYS residents? If the MTA awards these contracts to firms with factories in the state, the jobs created then also pay taxes in state. Bombardier is located in Plattsburg, Alstom is in Hornell and Kawasaki is in Yonkers (which by the way, isn’t upstate). The Alstom and Kawasaki plants were both previously owned by American rail companies and were bought out. Bombardier is headquartered little more than an hour away from Plattsburg, in Quebec.

Where do you want these items built, in China? So that the build quality can be abhorrently low, so that it costs a fortune to ship to NYC and so that we can owe China even more money?

petey February 2, 2010 - 2:57 pm

“Of all the potential things in the universe to complain about, I can’t believe this even makes the list.”

agree completely

AK February 2, 2010 - 3:45 pm

“Why shouldn’t politicians try to make sure that state money is spent on things that maximize the benefit for NYS residents?”

I think there was a real misunderstanding in what I wrote (I can’t speak for pete). I want the best value for the MTA, regardless of where it is made. Shoddy work, wherever done, is clearly not the best value. I simply want the MTA to be free to choose whatever company they want, regardless of where the jobs come from. If all things are equal, then great, choose the company with jobs in NYS, but that would be the rare case indeed.

Scott says: “These manufacturers opened factories in New York to make it easier to do business with the state.”

Certainly true! But what were their motives? I think anyone who claims that their motives aren’t political in nature is blind to reality. For instance, the new R160s have parts made all over the world (the cars themselves list Yonkers, NY, Lincoln, NE, and Kobe, Japan as three sites). It is put together in NYS to score political points (very much like Toyota opened factories in the Southern US to try to gain market share by convincing red-blooded Americans that you can be patriotic and drive a Toyota).

Lastly, lets not pretend that Alstom and others are pristine, flawless companies. For a cursory look at the problems with R160 production, see:


rhywun February 2, 2010 - 11:56 pm

Erm… no. Toyota opened factories in the south so they could employ much less-expensive non-union workers.

AK February 4, 2010 - 12:27 am

No, they didn’t.


Wages for UAW vs. nonunionized Toyota workers are very similar, despite earlier reporting. Labor costs in Toyota’s US plants are actually higher than analogous costs in Japan, largely because of the complete lack of benefits provided to Japanese workers (those are provided by the government).

If you really want to nit-pick my earlier comment though, you could justifiably say that Toyota came to the US because of massive corporate welfare on the backs of American taxpayers:

Toyota has received a little over a billion USD in federal, state, and local government tax subsidies and incentives including:

* $323.9 million in subsidies for the plant in Tupelo from Mississippi budget.
* $371 million in subsidies for the Georgetown plant from Kentucky budget.
* $227.5 million in subsidies and tax incentives for the Texas plant by Local, State, and federal budgets.

pete February 2, 2010 - 3:54 pm

Rotem, Breda, Talgo, Siemans, US Railcar, Tokyu, Nippon Sharyo, Sumitomo all have built US rail and/or metro cars and they aren’t the cartel of NY state bidders Kawasaki/Bombardier/Alstom. Rotem just won the Silverliner V contract because of crony capitalism (they opened a factory in Philadephia for the bid). The BL20GH was never even RFPed (how the ****?). And a joint purchase between CT and NY, so “buy NY” I guess couldn’t apply. I think somewhere EPA/emissions control/”green”/novel technologies/demonstrator applies in the story of Brookville and the MTA.

Josh K February 2, 2010 - 6:30 pm

The novel-technology demonstrator, probably applies to the MTACC’s BL14G’s, but I’m pretty sure the BL20GH’s that MNRR, SIR, and CDOT went in on together were RFP’d.

Christopher February 2, 2010 - 7:26 pm

All they have to do is open a joint venture in the U.S. That’s exactly how other transit agencies do it. NY is not unique in this requirement. (And that’s a good thing, I think we need more efforts spent on assuring that blue collar jobs — and with them American knowledge in engineering, tool making, machining, etc — stay in the U.S. Why do Europe and Japan have such a deep understanding in these areas: the same type of protectionism that you decry here.

Now DC Metro has an even more restrictive buying clause that I’m not particularly fond of: they won’t even allow joint ventures. Severally limits the quality of the buses.

Christopher February 2, 2010 - 7:30 pm

I see that Josh K made more sense then I did. I meant to say other transit manufacturers. He is right, all those companies are foreign-owned. SF’s Breda streetcars or the Van Hools that various cities use are made in the U.S. as well. (And there’s another factor to consider: Federal transit safety regulations are strict. So the products released in the U.S. often aren’t the same ones that are sold elsewhere.

pete February 2, 2010 - 9:22 pm

The factories that are opened in the USA to meet bid terms do not add engineering, machining or tool making skills to US workers. They are simply plug this in, screw this in. Any jobs that require degrees in the local factory (engineering, etc), the company imports from their main headquarters.

see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complete_knock_down

These “jobs” only last aslong as new railcars are being ordered. Alstom already has began layoffs.


Alon Levy February 3, 2010 - 4:27 am

Actually, the capital cost of a subway car in New York isn’t high by international standards. It’s barely higher than in Paris, and barely half as much as in London. Look up the latest Bombardier contract for the London Underground – the cost is $2.3 million per car, compared with $1.3-1.5 million per car on the R143 and R160 contracts. In Paris the rolling stock for last decade’s Line 14 cost $900,000 apiece.

SEAN February 2, 2010 - 2:50 pm

Those busses look like the NOBY LFW busses I ride in Westchester. Although those NOBI’s are 40′ long with two doors. They make artix that come in 60′ 62′ & 65′ lengths for BRT opperation. In adition New Flyer also make busses that are simmiler in style for BRT.

paulb February 2, 2010 - 3:16 pm

That curve at the bottom of the windscreen made me think for a moment that NYT had gone ahead with purchasing more of the hybrid EcoSaver buses. I guess those are still under test.

Scott E February 2, 2010 - 3:18 pm

Articulated buses still pose a huge concern regarding their ability to navigate tight traffic-filled city streets. Hopefully these routes are not as bad as some of the Manhattan ones, and perhaps they’re not much different than a tractor-trailer (except the back end is filled with people rather than cargo), but it still concerns me.

With regard to the upstate New York issue, I think Josh K is right. These manufacturers opened factories in New York to make it easier to do business with the state. Kawasaki is actually a Japanese company, Bombardier is Canadian, Alstom is French.

pete February 2, 2010 - 3:56 pm

But your tax dollars are paying for republican welfare in upstate NY through “jobs” that last only as long as NY state keeps buying railcars/public transit, on taxpayer debt.

Boris February 2, 2010 - 4:05 pm

That’s the important thing. Not how much tax money flows to the state, but how the state spends it. If these taxes were spent on public transit (so having these jobs in NY benefited the MTA directly) or other services for all, like parks, then it would be a good use of the money. But considering how much state funds Albany funnels to narrow special interest groups, nobody wants more jobs. Nobody wants the other guy to become better off.

rhywun February 3, 2010 - 12:04 am

Strange concept, yes, but “jobs” really only last as long as there is demand for them.

JS February 8, 2010 - 10:22 pm

Actually, a 60-foot articulated bus has a tighter turning radius than a standard 45-foot bus.

Kid Twist February 2, 2010 - 3:21 pm

Small thing:

IRT cars are 51 feeet, 4 inches.
You mean slightly longer than BMT-IND cars, which are 60 feet, 6 inches (except, of course, for the 75-foot cars).

Ed February 2, 2010 - 8:44 pm

I hate to be negative, but that bus is way too big.

They are doing lots of stuff to make it quicker for people to get on and get off the bus quickly. But the main reason so much time is spent having busses sit idle while people embark and debark is that THERE ARE TOO MANY PEOPLE ON ONE BUS. Go to other cities -well, you will probably have to leave the US- and you will see how well small but frequent busses work. In fact you can even see it here with the “G” shuttle.

I’ve been told, actually I think by someone posting here, is that the reason the MTA uses the huge busses is that MTA drivers cost so much that they can’t afford the extra drivers for more frequent service with smaller busses. Dealing with the problems of this agency is like peeling a poisoned onion.

Andrew February 2, 2010 - 11:35 pm

Large buses are common all over the world. London has double decker or articulated buses on most routes – only the more lightly used routes have what we would think of as standard-size buses. Several cities have bi-articulated buses.

Labor is the single largest component of any bus system’s operating budget – this isn’t something peculiar to New York! – so it doesn’t make sense to operate high-volume routes with small vehicles.

And if you think articulated buses are bad, I can’t wait to hear how you feel about the subway!

Alon Levy February 3, 2010 - 5:52 am

Articulated buses are bad when people can only board at the front and have to pay before the bus starts moving.

robo February 8, 2010 - 1:57 pm

Pre-paying is part it the whole BRT matrix of methodology to speed up boarding. A properly-done BRT system will have gates not unlike what you would see on a subway, forcing the passenger to purchase a ticket before entering the boarding platform. Normally, there is no ticketing/payment on board the buses.

rhywun February 3, 2010 - 12:13 am

I dunno how much I would trust that opinion given that the VAST majority of NYC buses are NOT articulated. Such buses seem more common in places like Europe where the ridership is proportionally higher, and I have no problem with it as long as the headway is still reasonable.

Aaron February 3, 2010 - 4:31 pm

They’re very common in West Coast cities, with San Francisco and Los Angeles making heavy use of them and Phoenix slowly introducing them. San Francisco has even narrower streets than NYC, particularly through Nob Hill and the FiDi and they haven’t had notable problems.

Louis February 8, 2010 - 12:13 pm

Narrow streets are generally not an issue with artics because they typically have shorter wheel bases (this is certainly true of NYCT artics). This allows them to have shorter turning radii, which makes them better for city streets than standard buses.

herenthere February 2, 2010 - 11:00 pm

The horizontal grab bars on these new buses are so high up in the lower portion of the buses! And they’re much closer over the seated passenger than the ones on older buses.

rhywun February 3, 2010 - 12:14 am

Wow, pull strings, real straps, AND a rear-view window?? It’s 1977 all over again.

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Urban Omnibus » The Omnibus Roundup – Plazas, Ice Heart, Omni-updates, Novabus, Olympics, pirates and liquid glass August 10, 2012 - 2:22 pm

[…] There’s a new bus in town, the Novabus LFS, and it has three doors, low floors, a clean diesel engine and a rear window! The first of the ninety new articulated vehicles that will eventually hit the roads can be found on the Bx12 Select Bus Service (SBS) route which runs between the Bronx’s Bay Plaza/Co-op City and 207th St. in Manhattan. The new design, in conjunction with off-board fare collection and enforcement of bus-only lanes, is expected to significantly reduce wait and travel time along the route, and the advanced technology implemented in the vehicles will keep maintenance and operating costs low. The MTA calls it the bus of the future. Bronx riders, hop on and let us know if you agree. (via Planetizen) […]


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