Not only did alternative-propulsion vehicles take over the show floor, discussion of the various types, from compressed natural gas (CNG) to hybrids and propane to electric, made a major impact on attendees at the 18th installment of BusCon, held in Chicago’s Navy Pier in September. The exhibit space showcased products from more than 145 exhibitors and touted 64 vehicles, including an unprecedented four electric vehicles, in a range of sizes.
Electric vehicles made a major showing on the floor, with four companies showcasing products.
Making its debut to the market at BusCon was Phoenix Motorcars’ 14-passenger Phoenix Electric Shuttle, which is available in multiple configurations and fully customizable.
“Our target markets are the smaller shuttle operators at airports and medical centers; basically, short-run shuttles that travel a few miles at a time continuously over an eight-hour day,” explained Bill Williams, director, sales and marketing, at Phoenix. “This vehicle will run those routes easily and at a minor fraction of the cost of gasoline.”
Proterra showcased its EcoRide BE35 transit bus, which it calls the world’s first battery-electric bus with fast charge-enabled infinite range.
“Everybody here at the show has had an interest in our product, regardless if they are a user of heavy-duty buses or not,” said Michael Hennessy, director, regional sales, for Proterra. “The technology is exciting, and so many folks are interested in learning more about how an electric vehicle can take over the gasoline and diesel applications they are currently using.”
Hennessy added that Proterra has 18 of its vehicles in revenue service at six different transit properties and expects to have 40 vehicles on the ground by the end of the year. The vehicle on display at BusCon was launching a two-week demo tour at transit agencies around the nation.
Complete Coach Works (CCW) featured a 40-foot all-electric bus it built for the Utah Transit Authority, using WAVE (wireless advanced vehicle electrification) technology. The wireless system works when one charging pad is attached to the bottom of an electric bus and another is planted in the road at a key point along the transit route. After the bus stops over the pad in the road, the induction charge sends power to the battery via a wireless transfer that can travel across several inches of airspace. A few minutes later — depending on the size of the battery — the bus is ready to resume its route.
China’s BYD Motors Inc. showcased its 40-foot offering, featuring a range of 155-plus-miles per charge, meeting roughly 80% of large city transit average daily service routes. It features BYD’s iron-phosphate batteries that can be recycled and repurposed for utility energy storage.
“Our bus is designed to go into any normal fleet and integrate into their operation without them changing the way they do business. I don’t have to train them how to do everything all over again. You plug this thing in and nobody knows that it is electric or not,” said Brendan Riley, fleet sales VP at BYD. “We will see if that resonates. I think it resonates. The transit authorities definitely like the concept.”
BYD expects to deliver the first of 10 buses to Calif.-based Long Beach Transit in March 2014, followed by 25 more for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which will all be built at its plant in Lancaster, Calif.
Riley added BYD also expects to introduce a 26-foot vehicle, a 60-foot articulated model and a 45-foot tag-axle over-the-road coach all between 2014 and the end of 2015.
Elsewhere on the show floor, Ameritrans unveiled its R330 Series, built exclusively on the Ram 5500 SLT chassis, with a Cummins ISB engine and Aisin six-speed transmission, while Meridian Specialty Vehicles offered two 14-to-20 passenger vehicles built on the 24-foot Mercedes Benz and Freightliner Sprinter chassis. The company recently announced its product line will expand to include shuttle and paratransit buses.
Winnebago, making its BusCon debut, introduced three new Metro Link models to the market, including public transit and airport versions and a CNG version, which may be used as a shuttle or airport shuttle. Metro Link’s design and features are specifically tailored to provide a better functioning vehicle with reduced maintenance and improved durability. Additional vehicle and market debuts included offerings from Goshen Coach, ElDorado National, Supreme Corp., Collins Bus Corp. and Champion Bus.
Q’Straint showcased its Q’UBE 3-Point Securement Station, which features a sliding bumper that provides critical stabilization and tip-over prevention that the ADA requires for three-point securement. It was designed for transit operators that need to maintain maximum passenger seating capacities in two-plus-two seating layouts. Meanwhile, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. unveiled two new products: the 23,000-lb. X-Ride commercial bus suspension and the newest version of the S2C commercial bus chassis.
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This year’s BusCon featured the largest educational program in its history, thanks in part to bonus sessions on both Monday and Wednesday.
Monday’s sessions, which were sponsored by the United Motorcoach Association, featured Joseph P. Schwieterman, director of DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, who discussed “Who is Today’s Intercity Bus Rider?” Meanwhile, “The Capital Cost of Contracting” discussed how local transit providers could expand local services by forming public-private partnerships with private bus and motorcoach companies using the often overlooked formula.
Representatives from all four electric bus manufacturers took part in the “Electric Buses are Here to Stay” session moderated by Michael C. Lewis of the Center for Electromechanics at the University of Texas – Austin.
The session opened with Lewis explaining the benefits operators could expect from using electric vehicles, including a quieter ride, environmental benefits and cost savings, as well as the federal government’s investment in the solution. Following Lewis, each company representative spoke about their products and then answered questions from the audience. A few key takeaways from the session were that one size doesn’t fit all applications, battery technology is improving rapidly, and cost of the vehicles will eventually begin to go down while efficiencies continue to increase.
The “Breakfast, Awards and Keynote Presentation” sponsored by GM Fleet & Commercial, featured J. Barry Barker, executive director for Louisville, Ky.-based Transit Authority of River City, delivering the keynote address.
After acknowledging the anniversary of 9/11 by sharing a story about a fireman who lost his brother when the first tower went down, Barker told stories from his long career in the transit industry to highlight how key it is for transit agencies to become part of the fabric of the communities they serve, the inherent safety of traveling by bus and the importance of making use of safety technologies on buses rather than just installing them.
Barker also discussed the importance of forging and maintaining a relationship with the local police department and creating a crisis management plan that is frequently read, practiced and updated.[PAGEBREAK]
Mid-Size Bus Manufacturers Association President Scott Reston honored the top 10 agencies with the most 35-foot-and-under buses in their fleets, with Arlington Heights, Ill.-based Pace Suburban Bus taking the top slot. Additional honorees on hand to accept their awards included representatives from the Delaware Transit Corp., Denver Regional Transportation District and Seattle’s King County Metro Transit.
The Propane Education & Research Council’s Tucker Perkins honored the top five users of propane autogas for their commitment to improving the environment and health of their communities. The winners were Mich.-based Flint MTA, which operates 72 ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas-fueled buses; the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority; Metro Cars in Detroit; Port Columbus International Airport in Columbus, Ohio; and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County near Kansas City, Kan.
The session also featured a short speech and video presentation from IndyGo President/CEO Michael Terry in anticipation for BusCon 2014, which will move to Indianapolis’ Indiana Convention Center Sept. 15 to 17.
Many attendees and speakers raved about the “Reduce Accidents: How to Easily Improve Your Performance” session presented by Jeff Cassell, president for the Transit and Paratransit Co. At the start of the presentation, Cassell asked 10 members of the audience to define what safety is, to no avail.
“Safety is as simple as freedom from risk, and risk is the possibility of bodily injury or harm,” explained Cassell. “So to be safe, you want to be safe from the possibility of harm.”
Cassell added that every accident has a cause, and typically, is caused by a behavior where the driver doesn’t appreciate the risk involved in the behavior. He then listed the 15 behaviors often associated with accidents that, if avoided, would reduce accidents at your operation, including not staying back four seconds from the vehicle in front, rushing to stay on or make up time, and being distracted by smartphones or other technologies. Cassell also emphasized the importance of leaders setting and emphasizing safety as a norm at their operation.
Working with the paratransit market was another big focus at this year’s BusCon, including the “Best Practices for Handling Special Needs People” and “Keeping Up with the American with Disabilities Act and Department of Transportation Regulations” sessions.
During the latter, Jeff Waxman, project manager, Illinois Department of Transportation, discussed several changes, including one to the Americans with Disabilities Act made in October 2011, which changed the definition of wheelchair from three- or four-wheel devices to any class of three- or more-wheeled devices usable indoors, designed or modified for and used by individuals with mobility impairments whether they are operated manually or powered. The change requires transportation providers to carry these wheelchairs and other devices, including such things as Segways, as well as their users, unless doing so is inconsistent with legitimate safety concerns.
Meanwhile, the “Preparing for the Increased Financial Demand of Paratransit Transportation” session featured Charles Dickson of the Community Transportation Association of America; Katharine Hunter Zaworski of the National Center for Accessible Transportation, and People’s Transit’s James Brigance.
Presenters discussed several aspects of providing mobility options to the growing sector that could both increase efficiencies as well as customer satisfaction. Amongst the tips discussed was the proper location for wheelchair securement systems.
Also on the educational slate was the ever-popular University Transit track, which was sponsored by First Transit and covered topics including the impact of the smartphone on college and university campuses, how to increase efficiencies while reducing costs and how to customize a university transit system.
Mark your calendars, BusCon heads to Indianapolis’ Indiana Convention Center Sept. 15 to 17, 2014.
Originally posted on Metro Magazine