Home Buses MTA set to order 328 buses from Nova

MTA set to order 328 buses from Nova

by Benjamin Kabak

The MTA has entered into a non-competitive deal with Nova Bus LFS to purchase 328 low-floor articulated clean diesel buses for just over $700,000 per bus. The summary, found on page 79 of today’s MTA Board books, notes that this price is $14,000 lower per bus than Nova had originally proposed. This latest order comes on the heels of a 90-bus trial from 2010, and the MTA says the results of the pilot were “very favorable.”

According to the board documents, these new articulated buses will be delivered from August 2011 through April 2013, and some bus routes may see less service as a result. The document explains:

The majority of these buses will be used to replace high floor articulated buses which have reached the end of their 12 year useful life and been in service since 1998 (20 buses) and 2000 (260 buses); the remaining 48 will be used to expand ariculated bus service throughout the 5 boroughs. Converting a route to articulated bus operation has an immediate impact on operating costs because 4 standard buses are replaced with 3 articulated buses resulting in a reduction in operator-related costs, fewer miles being driven and a need for fewer buses to meet peak service requirements.

The project has a local component as well as all of the buses will be manufactured upstate in Plattsburgh, New York. Finally, the MTA says it will soon open a competitive bidding process for an even larger order of articulated buses. New Flyer is currently testing its own low floor articulated clean disel bus, and once those vehicles pass their structural integrity tests, Transit will order a 90-bus pilot. If those buses are successful on the city streets, it will open the RFP process for even more new buses.

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Bolwerk May 25, 2011 - 12:02 pm

This is stupid. Build a bloody light rail network in places that need these kinds of vehicles already. It would probably save even more money. Other than more capacity, bonuses include vehicle operating lives that bat in closer to half a century rather than twelve years, better acceleration, even faster boarding, and more room for expansion.

Avi May 25, 2011 - 12:06 pm

You want to build a light rail on cross town streets in Manhattan? Good luck with that. 34th street couldn’t even get a physically separated bus lane, there is no way you could get approval for removing traffic lanes and installing rail. The MTA is just making the best of the options it has to work with.

Bolwerk May 25, 2011 - 12:48 pm

Sure there is. When it comes down to it, politicos just didn’t have any balls to stand up to the NIMBYs. Such people are stupid mouthbreathers who can do nothing but yell and maybe write a check. In reality, all that would have happened is everyone would have been perfectly happy in a few weeks and life would have gone on sans some traffic congestion – just like it did with Times Square and the Broadway street reclamations.

Anyway, there is no need necessarily for rail to have dedicated traffic lanes. Better acceleration and faster boarding is a big bonus, and both could speed traffic up. (Buses aren’t just victims of traffic congestion. They cause it too.) And, most importantly, rail has way more capacity.

Andrew May 25, 2011 - 7:56 pm

Where do you store and maintain the LRV’s? How do you handle street fairs, parades, and emergency street shutdowns? How does your new light rail system interface with bus lines that it may share route segments with? And perhaps most importantly, how do you cover the initial capital outlay?

Bolwerk May 25, 2011 - 11:33 pm

I don’t see how most of these things are even more than trivial problems. How do we do it now? How do other places do it? Obviously the upfront cost is high, but higher than having to replace our bus fleet every 12 years?

Benjamin Kabak May 25, 2011 - 11:43 pm

12 years is generally the standard bus life around the country. Those things take a beating.

Alon Levy May 26, 2011 - 11:49 am

And 40 years is the standard LRV life. You’re making Bolwerk’s point for him.

Andrew May 26, 2011 - 8:35 pm

They’re not trivial at all. Buses already have storage and maintenance facilities, and they can reach them on city streets. LRV’s need new facilities, and they need to be able to reach them on trackage. Buses are rerouted to parallel streets during street closures; that won’t work for LRV’s.

Bolwerk May 27, 2011 - 11:43 am

Is this learned incompetence or NIH syndrome on steroids or what? Not only are these problems been addressed or at least coped with in cities all over the world, but even New York has left over infrastructure from its streetcar days. What is so complicated about this? Condemning some land, or building out to relatively vacant land, or sharing facilities with subway shops, or sharing a bus depot, or whatever else is probably the cheap part.

LRT isn’t for everything either. Buses make perfect sense for many applications.

Alon Levy May 28, 2011 - 8:39 pm

I don’t know about LRVs, but regional DMUs are built to be as similar as possible to buses on the inside, so that small cities can maintain them in one shop together with buses. One of those DMUs, Stadler’s GTW, is used on Riverline, so they’re not even all that foreign to this region.

PaulCJr May 26, 2011 - 12:17 pm

You kidding! NYPD can’t even keep the bus lane clear and you want light rail on the street?! While I favor rail over bus, it would always be stuck behind cars. Now if the MTA could get the NYPD to commit to keeping tracks cleared of cars, then maybe we would have the opertunity to have light rail. Let me also remind you that NYPD promised the MTA they would keep the bus lanes cleared.So until then no light rail.

Steve May 26, 2011 - 3:42 pm

People don’t park on tracks the way they park in bus lanes, because they know the train can’t go around.

That’s especially true if it’s known that the train operator can gently “nudge” the car off the tracks.

Avi May 25, 2011 - 12:02 pm

Doesn’t replacing 4 buses with 3 buses result in longer wait times between buses? Even if the capacity increases, I’m not sure that’s a trade-off riders are in favor of. Why can’t the MTA replace 4 standard buses with 4 articulated buses and just increase capacity on a route without changing the headway?

Bolwerk May 25, 2011 - 1:01 pm

Possibly the efficiencies of articulated buses improve throughput enough that frequency doesn’t go down. If you can get from point A to Q, without missing any of the 15 stops inbetween, in 75% of the time you could before, it’s quite all right to lose 25% of the vehicles.

Regardless, I think I prefer predictability and punctuality to bus frequency. It’s easy enough to plan to leave 20m earlier or 20m later because I know a bus will be there, but not so easy to leave and have no clue when something will actually arrive – actually, that’s exactly what I get with the M Train a lot. In much of Outerboroughistan, you pretty much need to know the schedule anyway – it may as well be reliable.

BrooklynBus May 25, 2011 - 1:24 pm

The article doesn’t say if all the buses will have three doors. If they are ordering any with two doors, they are making a big mistake. The current artics on the crosstown streets have greatly slowed down service with longer waits and dwell times. When buses are crowded, the bus can spend 5 minutes dwelling at every avenue. Many people will take a crosstown bus only if they see one coming since most trips are short. Have they even done a study that shows if ridership on crosstown routes didn’t decline at a greater rate than the system average as a result of these buses being introduced on crosstown routes. I highly doubt it.

Bolwerk May 25, 2011 - 3:41 pm

Yeah, well, that’s another thing. I suppose you’re right: the answer is likely no, and if they’re only using one door to board passengers, this is even more stupid than I said it was above.

They probably need to be BRT to be worth it.

Woody May 25, 2011 - 4:39 pm

Take a look at the artistic rendering above the article. Articulated bus with three doors.

BrooklynBus May 25, 2011 - 6:24 pm

Still doesn’t say if the entire order will be buses with three doors. They could split the order. For years they were insisting that 3-door buses weren’t fit for NYC streets. The MTA even fought for years to keep articulated buses out of NYC altogether citing factors such as increased maintenance costs.

Andrew May 25, 2011 - 6:50 pm

These are the same buses purchased last year for the M15.

Pete May 25, 2011 - 1:17 pm

These low floor buses are going to have lots of problems in the winter with a little snow. They already bottom out when leaving the little dip in the driveway out of the depot and on the potholes in our decrepit streets. It’s great though that at least some of the bus will be made in NY and USA.

Andrew May 25, 2011 - 6:43 pm

Because frequencies are determined based on loads, and it takes fewer buses to carry the same number of people.

MRB May 26, 2011 - 11:37 am

At peak frequencies, not really. Bus bunching is a big problem in NYC and and a bus coming every 4 minutes instead of every 3 minutes increases average wait time by 30 seconds – not a meaningful service reduction.

The more popular routes have many people not boarding the first bus that arrives due to overcrowding anyhow.

ollie May 25, 2011 - 12:03 pm

are clean diesel buses relatively loud?
i’m guessing they arent as quiet as the hybrid-electric buses

Jason B. May 26, 2011 - 8:44 am

Actually I live on 111th and 2nd, and these buses roll by non-stop for the M15. They’re *much* quieter than previous buses. When they’re at a stop they have the same engine noise as a typical car.

ollie May 25, 2011 - 12:06 pm

and these things are road hogs, especially when making a turn.

Ed May 25, 2011 - 12:55 pm

I prefer using a greater number of smaller buses that handle heavy traffic better, are faster, and will come more often.

I’ve been told that the reason we can’t have these is the relatively high wages that are now paid to bus drivers (in other words, unions). Increasing the number of busses means increasing the number of bus drivers, and the MTA can’t afford this. So the trend for the forseeable future will be for a smaller number of larger, and likely slower, busses.

And come to think of it the systems where I have experienced the smaller, faster busses (which are a real pleasure to use) are all in developing countries where labor is cheaper.

Bolwerk May 25, 2011 - 1:04 pm

Setting aside problems like accessibility, on any busy line such buses just will need longer dwell times and stuff. Larger, higher-capacity vehicles make sense on busier routes.

And the cost of the additional payroll with smaller buses is kind of difficult to ignore.

Andrew May 25, 2011 - 6:45 pm

How do you figure? If the total passenger volume is fixed, decreasing frequency will increase, not decrease, dwell times, since more people will be getting on and off the bus at each stop.

Bolwerk May 25, 2011 - 7:15 pm

More people boarding/alighting per door. But then, as BrooklynBus pointed out, maybe they’re only going to use one door anyway for loading.

Andrew May 25, 2011 - 7:57 pm

This isn’t SBS. Every non-SBS route in NYC uses only one door for loading, since the driver has to verify that everyone pays as they board.

Bolwerk May 25, 2011 - 11:23 pm

I figured there wasn’t much point in getting these without an eventual eye towards at least some more SBS. But I suppose the MTA could be that shortsighted.

Alon Levy May 26, 2011 - 11:53 am

Nothing that systemwide POP won’t fix.

Andrew May 26, 2011 - 8:37 pm

Agreed, and I hope that’s the ultimate plan with smartcards. But that’s still several years off.

(The current POP design on SBS doesn’t scale well – it will never be implemented systemwide.)

Bolwerk May 27, 2011 - 11:45 am

It’s also stupid. An unlimited metrocard should be enough to ride. The paper receipts are a waste of time.

Andrew May 27, 2011 - 6:46 pm

Not when the current (interim) POP implemention doesn’t equip inspectors with MetroCard readers.

Bolwerk May 29, 2011 - 11:56 am

So this implementation is stupid as any less than a stopgap measure.

Alon Levy May 27, 2011 - 12:34 pm

Did you read the MTA’s smartcard report that Ben linked to a while ago? It says people will continue to pay the driver on all local buses.

Andrew May 27, 2011 - 6:50 pm

There’s plenty of time for that to change.

Alon Levy May 28, 2011 - 8:34 pm

Okay, so what you’re saying is that even though the report says there will be POP only on SBS, it may change anyway, because… what? The MTA will finally discover how things are done abroad?

Anon256 May 25, 2011 - 8:08 pm

Well, if the buses were that much slower, then it wouldn’t actually save on the number of drivers needed (if articulated buses come every 20 minutes and take 80 minutes to complete their run, while normal buses come every 15 and need 60 to complete their run, then you need four buses and drivers either way, and more fuel in the former case). The fact that the MTA thinks moving to articulated buses will save money means they don’t think they will be too much slower than normal buses. Perhaps they expect benefits like having more doors to exit from will mostly outweigh drawbacks like decreased maneuverability?

Also, if NYC moves to a smartcard system during the lifetime of these buses, they could all use proof-of-payment to allow three-door boarding, as is/was done on the articulated buses in London. This would presumably increase average speed quite a bit. There would be places to tap cards at each of the doors, and fare inspectors would carry readers to check whether a card had been tapped. Even more time could be saved if those with unlimited cards did not have to tap. Actually, why isn’t something like this feasible with the current Metrocard system?

Andrew May 26, 2011 - 10:58 pm

Because there is currently no such thing as a portable wireless MetroCard reader. Developing one would be expensive, and the product would probably be ready just in time for MetroCard to be phased out.

Alon Levy May 27, 2011 - 12:31 pm

The MTA has ruled out POP on non-SBS buses even after it transitions to a smartcard. And smartcard readers do exist, in many cities.

Andrew May 27, 2011 - 6:58 pm

The MTA hasn’t ruled out anything of the sort.

pete May 25, 2011 - 2:38 pm

12 years and junkyard time? What the hell. The New Flyers are still new! Show me the kickbacks.

al May 25, 2011 - 3:25 pm

They don’t want to spend on refurb costs. The existing articulated buses targeted for replacement are high floors. They might make sense to stay on if the MTA converted them for express bus service.

The new buses also have the added benefit of a 3rd set of doors and low floors to speed boarding and cut dwell times at stops. Putting in a 3rd set of doors on high floor buses would likely be an adventure in vehicle structural modification.

Edward May 25, 2011 - 3:31 pm

As a NYC car owner, I can attest that the streets of this town are horrid on vehicles. I’m actually surprised that these buses last a dozen years. Many of them run all day and night, stopping and going and picking up thousands of passengers a day while they drive dozens of miles at a time over the worst streets imaginable.

Benjamin Kabak May 25, 2011 - 11:43 pm

As I just noted above, 12 years is generally the standard bus life around the country. Those things take a beating.

Jim May 25, 2011 - 7:54 pm Reply
Jim May 25, 2011 - 7:55 pm

The above post: I messed up the h ref, but its a link to a photograph of a bus in geneva switzerland

Woody May 26, 2011 - 10:24 am

I like it! Let’s get some here.

Alon Levy May 26, 2011 - 11:59 am

How many doors does it have?

pete May 26, 2011 - 2:02 pm

Thats not a bus, thats called time for a subway line.

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines May 26, 2011 - 9:16 am

[…] Kabak: New Articulated Buses to Bring Reduced Service for Some Routes […]

Alon Levy May 26, 2011 - 12:08 pm

Low-floor artics can have four doors. Regular-size buses can have three.

Tsuyoshi May 26, 2011 - 12:19 pm

One of the biggest impediments to faster bus service is wheelchair loading. This should help.

MTA Set To Order 328 Buses From Nova « NYC WESTCHESTER RESOURCE May 26, 2011 - 7:13 pm

[…] MTA set to order 328 buses from Nova :: Second Ave. Sagas. Categories: Transit Tags: Buses LikeBe the first to like this post. Comments (0) […]

paulb May 26, 2011 - 10:22 pm

I don’t ride them, but I’ve watched these Nova LFSs go by from my bike, and I was impressed from the beginning. They are quiet. I used to be very skeptical about diesel engines being cleaned up and quieted down. No more.

On the causes of the decline in bus ridership :: Second Ave. Sagas May 27, 2011 - 1:24 am

[…] sound as though the situation is going to improve any time soon. With the onslaught of 328 new articulated buses, the MTA will scale back bus service even further in the coming years. It might just be the perfect […]


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