Voters Across the Country Vote in Favor of Public Transit

Voters Across the Country Vote in Favor of Public Transit

On November 8, millions of American citizens headed to the polls to vote for their preferred presidential and congressional candidates. But political offices weren’t the only things at stake in this election. In many states, voters also voted on a wide variety of ballot measures that covered everything from marijuana legalization to minimum wage increases. There were also a record number of ballot proposals that allotted funds for infrastructure improvements to public transportation systems—48 ballot measure in total. Altogether, these public transit ballot proposals were worth about $200 billion.

When all the votes were counted, 33 of those 48 ballot measures were approved.

The American Public Transportation Association is healing these results as a big win in a country whose mass transit infrastructure has been in desperate need of improvement for decades. With billions of dollars now set aside for public transit expansions and improvements, American cities will finally be able to make long-overdue upgrades to their transit systems.

In Seattle, for example, the Sound Transit 3 proposition will spend roughly $54 billion over 25 years to expand the city’s bus and train routes. In Los Angeles, a similar ballot measure is expected to raise $120 billion for light rail extensions and bus service improvements over the next four decades. LA’s ballot measure will also set aside funds to make the city more accessible to bicyclists and pedestrians. In Atlanta, $2.5 billion will be set aside to improve the city’s light rail system. You can find the complete list of public transit ballot measures here.

It will be exciting to see how this huge influx of money will change America’s public transit systems in the coming years. At Northwest Bus sales, we’ll be here to provide municipal transit authorities and private companies with the vehicles they need to update and expand their fleets. Give us a call today to learn more.

Houston Overhauls Transit Service, Increases Ridership

Houston Overhauls Transit Service, Increases Ridership

Each city has its own unique public transit system, and no system is perfect. In New York, the Subway carries commuters and residents from place to place on a regular schedule though a delay-prone system of underground and above-ground trains. Meanwhile in Boston, the T uses mainly above-ground tramcars to take people from place to place. In other cities, however, people rely primarily on bus service for their transit needs.

In Houston, for example, the bus system is becoming more and more user friendly thanks to a recent major overhaul. Last August, the bus system’s outdated service map was upgraded to a newer grid-like system, with more buses running, more station locations and more frequent service. Unfortunately, many commuters were forced to transition from a one-bus commute to routes with additional transfers.

After hearing some negative reviews from customers whose routes were heavily affected by this revised service plan, Houston’s Metro system has made a few further changes and hopes that these new tweaks will placate passengers who were put off by last year’s overhaul. By implementing a more fluid grid system for bus transportation while also incorporating customer feedback, Houston expects to increase ridership on their bus system significantly.

According to some research done by Houston’s Metro service, Saturday and Sunday bus ridership spiked this summer, which showed that more people were using the bus system during their leisure time. Transit officials hope to see a similar increase in commuter percentages over the next several months as well. Ideally, they’d like to see a 20 percent increase in total ridership over the next two years. Based on their progress so far, Houston’s bus service is well on its way to achieving this goal.

Stay tuned for more updates from your premier source for competitively priced new and used buses – Northwest Bus Sales.

Feds Set Ambitious Emissions Goals for Trucks and Buses

Feds Set Ambitious Emissions Goals for Trucks and Buses

There will be some changes to the truck and bus models you see driving down the country’s highways come 2021. According to a press release from Environment News Service, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have made some decisions on emissions caps for medium and heavy-duty trucks and buses for the 2021 through 2027 model years.

The goal of these two agencies partnering up is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to encourage “manufacturing innovation”.

Environment News Service reports that the potential benefits of the stringent emissions program outweigh the cost of the changes at an 8 to 1 ratio. While trucking companies will surely need to spend some money on development, they should also plan to be able to save money on fuel—approximately $170 billion across the country.

The EPA hopes that the new laws will encourage trucking companies and transit services to adopt vehicles that use cleaner alternative fuels, so that future generations don’t have to figure out how to fix the fossil fuel problem.

“Today’s ambitious but achievable announcement is a huge win for the American people, giving us cleaner air, more money saved at the pump, and real benefits for consumers across the supply chain,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in the press release.

Model years 2014 and 2015 were covered under a similar, but somewhat less ambitious emissions goal plan, which is expected to save the country about $50 billion in fuel costs. And according to ENS, truck sales were up in 2014 and 2015, which means that the trucking industry will undoubtedly be able to keep up with the government’s demands, and produce cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles that have a lesser impact on the environment.

We’ll have to stay tuned and keep an eye on model year 2021 to see what they come up with! In the meantime, you can find a variety of great new and used options right here at Northwest Bus Sales.

Helsinki is the Latest City to Test Self-Driving Buses

Helsinki is the Latest City to Test Self-Driving Buses

Back in July, a curious little bus named Olli made its debut appearance in Washington, D.C. Aside from its distinctive appearance, what sets Olli apart from other buses in D.C. is that it’s able to drive itself. The bus is able to respond to hails from an Uber-like app, and recognize requests from passengers to take them to different locations in the area.

Now, a similar bus is about to hit the streets of the Finnish city of Helsinki as well. They’re called EasyMile minibuses, and this will be the first time they’ll share the road with ordinary traffic in Finland. Prior to their introduction in Helsinki, the buses were tested on a number of public roads in more remote regions.

Finland is somewhat unique in that the country has no law that explicitly requires vehicles to have drivers. Chances are, this was just an oversight from the days before autonomous vehicles became a practical reality. Now, however, this legal oddity has made Finland an ideal testbed for self-driving cars and buses.

Because the EasyMile buses are small and not especially fast, they will likely be used to ferry passengers short distances around the city, rather than following regular commuter routes. They could be perfect for getting people to and from an airport or train station, for example. The testing is expected to start shortly, and run for a total of about two months. If all goes well, Helsinki may adopt more of the buses in the future as well.

Stay tuned for more updates from your premier source for new and uses buses, all sold at competitive prices – Northwest Bus Sales.

Zion National Park May Soon Adopt Electric Buses

Zion National Park May Soon Adopt Electric Buses

The National Park Service has long maintained a commitment to minimizing traffic on their roads and keeping environmentally-vehicles in their fleet. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), roughly 60 percent of the vehicles the Park Service maintains are electric or powered by alternative fuels. About 20 years ago, the Park Service began replacing its gasoline and diesel-powered buses with low-emission propane-powered alternatives. Now, those buses are getting old and park officials are considering upgrading to an even more environmentally-friendly alternative – electric buses.

Recently, the Park Service began working with the NREL to evaluate the possibility of converting 14 propane-powered buses in Utah’s Zion National Park to electric drivetrains. Before the Park Service can commit to the conversions, they need to make sure that the electric buses would be able to meet the demands of traversing the road topography in the Zion National Park. They’ll also have to assess the cost of installing and supporting a charging infrastructure in the park.

Currently, the NREL is working on gathering data from onboard logging devices on the current fleet of buses to determine the power and range that an electric bus will need to ferry tourists around the park in the future. Once they gather the statistical data on the current buses’ performance, they’ll provide the information to companies bidding for the conversion contract.

The NREL has worked with the Parks Service in the past, and was instrumental in the earlier transition to propane-powered buses. Now, they’ve returned to help facilitate the transition to electric buses as well. Zion might be the first National Park to work toward adopting electric buses, but they certainly won’t be the last.

China’s Road-Straddling Bus Takes a Test Drive

China’s Road-Straddling Bus Takes a Test Drive

Earlier this year, civil engineers at the 19th China Beijing International High-Tech Expo unveiled plans for an innovative space-saving bus that rides above traffic rather than alongside it. It’s called the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB), and its unique design quickly gained a great deal of notoriety online. While some transit experts praised the bus’s road-straddling construction, others argued that it was merely a conceptual design that could never materialize into a real vehicle.

At the time, the TEB’s engineering time had nothing but a miniature scale model to demonstrate their invention. Now, just a few months later, a full-size TEB has taken its inaugural test drive in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province. The test drive was conducted in a controlled trial that didn’t exactly mimic normal driving conditions, but it did at least prove that the TEB could, in fact, be driven on a real roadway. The test drive consisted of a 300 meter run with one TEB bus carriage. Ultimately, the TEB’s designers plan to connect four of the carriages together so that a single bus could carry as many as 1,200 passengers. In addition to its one-of-a-kind design, the TEB is also unique in that it’s powered by a fully-electric drivetrain.

Even on a brief test run, watching the behemoth bus roll down the road while cars travel underneath it is an impressive sight. It’s hard to say if and when the bus will become commonplace on China’s roadways, but for now you can see the bus in action in this video of its first test run!

 

Proterra Releases Patents For Fast-Charging Technology

Proterra Releases Patents For Fast-Charging Technology

Since it was founded in 2004, Proterra has become one of the biggest names in zero-emission bus design in the world.  Last year, Fortune Magazine went so far as to call the company the Tesla of electric buses. According to Bloomberg BNA, the company currently controls about 80 percent of the U.S. market for electric buses. You can find Proterra’s electric buses in cities all over the country – from Seattle to Reno to Nashville.

What distinguishes Proterra from its competitors isn’t just its commitment to electric vehicles; it’s the company’s proprietary rapid-charging technology that allows their buses to be recharged in as little as 10 minutes. This technology has alleviated one of the chief concerns many transit authorities have had about electric buses in the past – namely, the equipment downtime necessitated by long charging times. With Proterra’s overhead charging system, its buses can recharge quickly at stops and operate all day long. Now, in an effort to encourage other industries to adopt electric vehicles, Proterra has announced that it will make three of the patents on its fast-charging system open to the public.

“We really want to stay focused on perfecting electric vehicles for the transit bus industry,” said Proterra CEO Ryan Popple in an interview with Fortune. “One of the ways we can help other entities not have to reinvent the wheel or reinvent the charger, is to open this up, provide information, and supplier access and let other companies go after applications that really aren’t core to us or our customers.”

This isn’t the first time companies in the alternative fuel market have made their technologies open source. In the past, both Toyota and Tesla have released electric vehicle patents to the public. In doing so, they hope to foster further competition and innovation in the electric vehicle market, and ease concerns about electric vehicles that have been perpetuated by gas companies. Releasing proprietary technology to competitors might seem counterintuitive from a business standpoint, but in fact it could be good for all of these companies in the long run.

Orange County, California Unveils Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus

Orange County, California Unveils Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is committed to making their fleet of buses as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. Currently, 97 percent of the fleet runs on clean-burning natural gas. By the end of 2016 they expect the entire fleet to be powered by natural gas, with one notable exception.

On May 23, the OCTA hosted an event to unveil its first zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell bus. Wrapped in a graphic decal of California poppies, the bus will roam the streets of Orange County in a two-year demonstration of hydrogen fuel cell technology. The $2.6 million dollar project is being funded by the Federal Transit Administration’s National Fuel Cell Bus Program.

The bus, which operates by converting chemical energy in hydrogen fuel into electricity, emits only water as exhaust and is completely silent. Likewise, it provides a much smoother and more comfortable ride for passengers than older buses powered by large diesel engines. It can run on a single charge for more than 200 miles, and can be refueled in a matter of minutes. Electric battery-powered buses, on the other hand, can take several hours to charge.

The OCTA has applied for additional funding from the California Air Resources Board in hopes of adding 10 more of the buses to its fleet in the future. They are now the fourth transportation agency in California to operate a hydrogen fuel cell bus.

It’s remarkable how far hydrogen fuel cell technology has come in just a few years. As the cost of the technology continues to fall, we may see more of these vehicles on the road sooner than you might think.

Chinese Engineers Debut Innovative Space-Saving Bus Design

Chinese Engineers Debut Innovative Space-Saving Bus Design

Here in America, many cities have begun embracing bus rapid transit systems as fast, cost-effective alternatives to subways. In China, meanwhile, engineers are taking a very different approach to modern bus transit. It’s called the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB), and it debuted earlier this month at the 19th China Beijing International High-Tech Expo.

As its name suggests, the TEB’s passenger rides above traffic, rather than alongside of it. Its massive frame straddles cars, allowing them to pass underneath it without disrupting the flow of traffic. With its sleek lines and unusual form factor, the TEB looks distinctly futuristic.

Civil engineers in China hope that the TEB could allow them to bring the convenience of a subway system to cities at a fraction of the cost. Because it can carry hundreds of passengers and doesn’t require devoted lanes, TEB has the potential to be even more cost-effective than bus rapid transit systems.

“With a carrying capacity of 1,200 people at a time, the TEB has the same functions as the subway while its cost of construction is less than one fifth of the subway. Its construction can be finished in one year,” said Bai Zhiming, chief engineer of the TEB project.

Of course there are still some significant practical hurdles to overcome before the TEB hits the streets. First and foremost, drivers will likely need some time to acclimate to the idea of driving underneath enormous, highway-straddling buses. This will mean city planners will have to be careful about where they choose to implement the first TEB systems.

The engineers behind the TEB project hope to begin trial operations in Qinhaungdao City in the second half of 2016. You can check out a demonstration of the TEB in the video below!

 

Students Design Retrofit Seat Belt System for Motor Coaches

Students Design Retrofit Seat Belt System for Motor Coaches

Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began encouraging states to adopt new legislation that would require school buses to be outfitted with seatbelts. Now, a group of students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Engineering have developed a device that could bring seat belts to motor coaches and municipal transit buses as well.
 
Starting this year, all new motor coaches are required to be manufactured with seat belts. Federal safety officials estimate that seat belts could reduce fatality rates in rollover accidents by as much as 77 percent. The only trouble is that there are already thousands of motor coaches already on the road that don’t have seat belts. With conventional upgrades, outfitting all of these buses with seat belts would be prohibitively expensive – about $40,000 to $50,000 per bus. With the Retrofit Seat Belt System, however, it would cost just $15,000 per bus.
 
“The design is affordable because it is the only known way to add seat belts to existing motor coaches without replacing all the seats,” said Sundar Krishnamurty, head of the research team at UMass that developed the retrofit system. “Furthermore, it will be minimally intrusive or noticeable to passengers. Thus, we can expect many bus owners to be interested in a more profitable means to improve the critical safety and comfort of their passengers.”
 
Krishnamurty and his team believe that as seatbelts in motor coaches become the norm, private transit companies will embrace the Retrofit Seat Belt System as a cost-effective alternative to traditional upgrade options. The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the team $50,000 dollars to help them bring their invention to market.
 
Currently the Retrofit Seat Belt System is only designed for use on motor coaches and transit buses, but Krishnamurty and his team are conducting further research that would allow them to adapt the system for use on school buses as well.