Big Blue Bus (BBB), a bus operator serving Santa Monica and the Los Angeles area, will invest $18.3 million in Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and California Proposition 1B Bond funds to replace fifty 40-foot New Flyer buses purchased between 2004 and 2006. Seven 30-foot Gillig buses are being placed in service now; an additional twenty 40-foot Gillig buses will be delivered and commissioned in October 2018. The agency plans to commission an additional twenty-three (23) 40-foot Gillig buses by December 2019.
Among other enhancements, buses will be equipped with Cummins-Westport Near-Zero engines and fueled by Renewable Natural Gas, to further reduce NOx vehicle emissions by more than 90% by December 2018. (Earlier post.)
We are making a significant investment to modernize one quarter of our fleet with new and exciting technology that will deliver a safer, more comfortable travel experience for customers and operators. Further, reshaping our fleet with smaller, more agile 30-foot vehicles will create new opportunities for ridership growth by enabling us to safely and efficiently serve customers on narrower streets and corridors. The fleet enhancements are part of a larger series of strategic improvements we will roll out over the next 12-18 months.—Ed King, Director of Transit Services
Other improvements will include:
Electric Assist Power Steering: A new power steering system will make vehicles easier to maneuver for Operators, while reducing fatigue and enhancing customer safety. The system uses a smaller handwheel for greater comfort, and sensors to respond intelligently to changing vehicle and environmental conditions.
Passenger Awareness Monitor: A new 10-inch monitor will display a live feed from a security camera mounted near the front door. The monitor will enable customers to see themselves when boarding the bus, which will help increase safety and security for both customers and Operators, and deter crime and vandalism. The monitor will be integrated with the digital video recording (DVR) system on each bus, which consists of 14 cameras, located in both the interior and exterior of the vehicle.
Wheelchair Securement: Buses will employ an ADA-compliant, three-point securement system called the “Q-POD.” Its simplified operation will allow for quicker wheelchair securement times, reduced vehicle dwell time, and increased passenger comfort and safety. The system will also help reduce injuries caused by repetitive, labor-intensive processes.
Retractable Seating: Located near the Q-POD will be two forward-facing seats that can be stowed in an upward position, allowing customers to safely store carts, strollers, suitcases, and other bulky items, while keeping the aisle clear.
Destination Signs: New silver LED destination signs are brighter and will be more visible to customers, especially in low-light conditions.
Slip Resistant Flooring: Buses will also feature durable and slip resistant flooring that allows for increased safety and easy maintenance.
The average age of BBB’s current fleet is less than 7 years old, outpacing an industry best practice of 8.5 years.
Big Blue Bus operates a fleet of 200 vehicles transporting more than 54,000 customers daily across a 58 square mile service area. Nationally recognized for its long-standing commitment to a cleaner environment, the entire fleet operates on alternative fuels, including renewable natural gas (RNG), a form of liquefied and compressed natural gas (LNG/CNG), which helps cut emissions by up to 90%.
In 2014, Big Blue Bus became the first transit agency in Southern California to purchase buses with near-zero compressed natural gas (CNG) engines. In 2015, Big Blue Bus became one of the country’s first municipal transit agencies to convert its entire fleet to renewable natural gas (RNG). Big Blue Bus also begun to retrofit buses with the Cummins-Westport ISL G Near-Zero emission engines, reducing NOx emissions in these buses by 95%. In 2016, Big Blue Bus committed to obtaining a 100% electric, zero carbon fleet by 2030.
In 2017, Gillig and Cummins announced a collaboration on electrified powertrains. The technical collaboration work is focused on integrating and optimizing new battery electric technology from Cummins that will power Gillig zero-emissions transit buses. (Earlier post.)