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The End of an Era: RTS Buses Are No More

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https://medium.com/@chris6d/the-end-of-an-era-rts-buses-are-no-more-821a6343e520?fbclid=IwAR0xVrJTRzOgjtES4CdEbCGI-nfbpbE5GlRJdeMnxVk0ReBQTXOA_jn3BTk

It was a familiar sight in New York City.

Often seen riding around town, the Rapid Transit Series fleet of buses were ridden by thousands of passengers a day, and observed by millions more from their cars and apartment windows, from pedestrians riding on bicycles, walking on the streets, and the like.

But it is inevitable that all good things must come to an end.

On March 22, 2019, it was announced that the MTA would retire all of their remaining RTS buses by May 10. By the night of April 30, they were all gone.

The RTS buses were organized by fleet numbers, with the buses coming in 4000, 5000, 8000, and 9000 number fleets. Most of the 8000 fleets were retired from 2009–2010, and the rest of the 8000 and all 9000 fleets followed from 2011–2018. This left New York City with only the 4000 and 5000 fleets.

The MBTA, Boston’s transit system, retired all of their RTS buses in 2017. NJ Transit followed in 2018, leaving New York City’s MTA the last major service to still have RTS buses in service. However, the MTA eventually followed suit.

The very first RTS buses, built by the Transportation Manufacturing Corporation, entered service in 1994. Those buses retired in 2010, but the wider-known buses that New Yorkers have come to love, entered service in 1998, built by Nova Bus.

In an effort to modernize, the back panels of the remaining RTS buses, which were black in color, were repainted white in 2010–2011. However, only a handful of RTS buses were not repainted, leaving the few black-backed ones to serve as an ultimate reminder of New York City’s once great transit past.

Twenty-one years after their introduction, they would be seen resting peacefully in the Ulmer Depot, unaware of their future fate.

It is a probability that almost all of these buses, which served their community and their city with the utmost pleasure, will be scrapped. Only a few will be preserved and possibly sold to buyers.

The future of the RTS buses is looking quite grim.

Starting in 2011, the MTA began to roll out New Flyer XD40 buses to replace the aging RTS fleet. Newer XD40s, with the MTA’s modern blue and yellow livery, along with free WiFi, USB charging ports, and automated announce–ments, entered service in 2017. These buses are said to be ‘keeping up with the times’.

These buses became a common sight throughout the decade, becoming more common as the years progressed, and more RTS buses were being retired. But now that all RTS buses are retired, the New Flyers have become more prominent than ever.

Some riders embrace the change, like former MTA bus driver of 30 years, Robert Stracquadani, who said of the RTS buses just a month ago, “those pieces of crap are still on the road?”

“Good riddance,” says high-school student and frequent passenger Alex Dimitryev. “Those buses were so uncomfortable. The new ones are better.”

Nonetheless, many railfanners and passengers prefer the old to the new.

Long-time railfanner and passenger Antonio Monetti frequently rides the B3 and B4 buses to-and-from work. Of the RTS buses’ retirement and replacement by the future New Flyer buses, he stated:

No more RTS buses. It’s too quiet and boring now. Inside the [RTS] bus, you hear things no video can catch, like when the driver floors [the bus], it made a cool noise. I can never sit in the front now [of the RTS bus] anymore, since the front seats [of the new buses] will always be low. Now we got these fake low floors as buses. The end of a real bus.

It is worth noting that the RTS buses, along with the other buses of the time, were high-floor, containing seats above street level. This trend has died down in recent years, with newer buses being built as low-floor, which is said to make them more handicap-accessible. However, since passengers sit at street level on low-floor buses, the risk of death from accidents is much higher, making the older, high-floor buses such as the RTS buses statistically safer.

“Why does every good thing gotta go?” user @datrompboi stated. “It’s the end of the real bus era.”

A railfanner from Warsaw, Poland, who goes by the username Stilwater Transit, stated of the RTS buses’ retirement: “That sucks, I know how [New Yorkers] feel. One bus model in my home city is retiring now, and three [more] until the end of the year. We’ll be stuck with crappy modern ones soon.”

Mixed feelings regarding the retirement of the RTS bus clearly exist. However, there is no denying that its retirement paves the way for a new generation of buses, ending an era of transportation dominated by city buses from the mid 1990s until the late 2000s. The future buses now take the spotlight.

Go ahead, New Flyer XD40. Your move.

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RIP RTS, gone but never forgotten. Although I've gotten sick of them recently, they will always be an iconic bus. 

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That article is kind of inaccurate with some of what it says.

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17 hours ago, Cait Sith said:

That article is kind of inaccurate with some of what it says.

Yeah ...... somehow all those original GMC RTSes didn't exist.

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Posted (edited)

Wow, I would have expected a much more celebratory fanfare for retirement of such an iconic symbol of NYC. 

I wonder if they're not fully retired however, if we'll still see them during GO's for a while, until more XD's come in. 

This also leads me to ask, how many more Green Flip Dots signs are left in the system? is it just the MV and QV 63, 6400 OG's, and a handful of MCI's. 

Edited by Lennyj17

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25 minutes ago, Lennyj17 said:

Wow, I would have expected a much more celebratory fanfare for retirement of such an iconic symbol of NYC. 

I wonder if they're not fully retired however, if we'll still see them during GO's for a while, until more XD's come in. 

This also leads me to ask, how many more Green Flip Dots signs are left in the system? is it just the MV and QV 63, 6400 OG's, and a handful of MCI's. 

Queens Village and Manhattanville have approximately 55 Orion 7 Greens a piece. And there's around 30 MCIs with the Flip dots. Those Orion 7 Greens are (very slowly) retiring and will completely gone when the 2020 XDEs come in. Imma miss all of that (RTS, DDS50, Flipdots). Those Orion 7s are the last remnants of old school equipment with the Green Destination Signs. 

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7 minutes ago, busdude2 said:

They should save 5249 the last bus of the last batch.

They did.

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I went like this when I read the news: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! But all good things must come to an end. The Nova Bus will always be my favorite RTS

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From the pictures posted elsewhere, I notice that 5249 was just repainted without white window trim it had later in its revenue life. Was it also repainted to a black back?

Next should be to repaint the now-38 year old 1201 to its as-delivered condition with the M Surface logos. That said, even though I didn't get to see the send-off, this is one of those models where a send-off was truly justified. The RTS era in NYC (counting the RTS-03 models purchased by Green Lines) was 40 years...from 1979 until 2009 (none of those RTS-03s survive anymore). This outlasted the New Look era in NYC by 2 years (which was 1958 until 1995).

As for the dedicated museum fleet of RTS buses, it now includes at least 5 buses certainly (1201, 5249, and 8971 NYCT, 10001 Green Lines, and 3865 Jamaica Buses) that can run. Then one can count the MetroCard buses which are 8319 and 8797 (and 4396?), and possibly 8628 as a Command Center bus.

Would it be too soon to see the RTS (at least 1201) operate as part of the Holiday Museum Fleet?

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Posted (edited)
2 minutes ago, aemoreira81 said:

From the pictures posted elsewhere, I notice that 5249 was just repainted without white window trim it had later in its revenue life. Was it also repainted to a black back?

That is a yes. The TA brought back the black back for representation. 

The number plate is the only thing kept in white back. 

Edited by Calvin

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7 hours ago, aemoreira81 said:

From the pictures posted elsewhere, I notice that 5249 was just repainted without white window trim it had later in its revenue life. Was it also repainted to a black back?

Next should be to repaint the now-38 year old 1201 to its as-delivered condition with the M Surface logos.

And also remove the openable windows, as it was originally single glass panels. (That was part of the whole original look. where later, they alternated between single panels and the dual siding sash windows). There ware well enough from all the other ones being scrapped now.

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10 hours ago, aemoreira81 said:

RTS buses, it now includes at least 5 buses certainly (1201, 5249, and 8971 NYCT, 10001 Green Lines, and 3865 Jamaica Buses) that can run. Then one can count the MetroCard buses which are 8319 and 8797 (and 4396?), and possibly 8628 as a Command Center bus.

I heard 8319/0007 is being scrapped bc phoenix/0010 is the metrocard bus.

also they have that queens surface RTS in the fleet

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On 5/6/2019 at 11:33 PM, Calvin said:

That is a yes. The TA brought back the black back for representation. 

The number plate is the only thing kept in white back. 

I doubt that numberplate will stay permanently, as it's completely wrong for the look.

23 hours ago, Orion6025 said:

I heard 8319/0007 is being scrapped bc phoenix/0010 is the metrocard bus.

also they have that queens surface RTS in the fleet

Bizarre to me they'd scrap a recent TMC bus in favor of a GMC with an ancient Detroit motor, but 0010 has had an easier life I suppose.

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But will they put the “bought by Port Authority” stickers on the preserved buses or nah?

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On 5/7/2019 at 7:14 AM, Eric B said:

And also remove the openable windows, as it was originally single glass panels. (That was part of the whole original look. where later, they alternated between single panels and the dual siding sash windows). There ware well enough from all the other ones being scrapped now.

So the old GMCs and TMCs had the unopenable windows, then that was changed beginning with Novas? I think DDOT *may* have run the factory-first GMCs (that I believe were just "given" to Detroit by GM, since the buses were built in Pontiac/HQ in Detroit/MAJOR public outrage over piss-poor service forced the issue) with the solid windows all around, but soon had the openable windows installed. All the later DDOT GMCs that I remember surviving into the 1990s had openable windows (and those had to have been some of the originals).

SMART (via its predecessor SEMTA) ran all of the GMCs and TMCs with unopenable windows. Wasn't until the Gillig Phantoms when openable windows appeared.

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On 5/6/2019 at 8:10 PM, Q23 via 108 said:

They did.

Thanks glad to hear that .

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6 hours ago, DetSMART45 said:

So the old GMCs and TMCs had the unopenable windows, then that was changed beginning with Novas? I think DDOT *may* have run the factory-first GMCs (that I believe were just "given" to Detroit by GM, since the buses were built in Pontiac/HQ in Detroit/MAJOR public outrage over piss-poor service forced the issue) with the solid windows all around, but soon had the openable windows installed. All the later DDOT GMCs that I remember surviving into the 1990s had openable windows (and those had to have been some of the originals).

SMART (via its predecessor SEMTA) ran all of the GMCs and TMCs with unopenable windows. Wasn't until the Gillig Phantoms when openable windows appeared.

I might’ve been 14 or 15 when I saw RTS’ with openable windows. I remember RTD had just became LA’s MTA, and the RTS’ had these green-hued windows that opened at the top (like bus windows do now). 

Man, was it UGLY:

79-DF5-D88-08-D4-4-CA0-B87-B-9-EFA0-CBC8

The original LACMTA livery scheme did it no favors. But I imagine the windows saved on fuel burn, and made it more likely that LA met CARB emissions goals.

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14 hours ago, DetSMART45 said:

So the old GMCs and TMCs had the unopenable windows, then that was changed beginning with Novas? I think DDOT *may* have run the factory-first GMCs (that I believe were just "given" to Detroit by GM, since the buses were built in Pontiac/HQ in Detroit/MAJOR public outrage over piss-poor service forced the issue) with the solid windows all around, but soon had the openable windows installed. All the later DDOT GMCs that I remember surviving into the 1990s had openable windows (and those had to have been some of the originals).

SMART (via its predecessor SEMTA) ran all of the GMCs and TMCs with unopenable windows. Wasn't until the Gillig Phantoms when openable windows appeared.

The openable windows (every other window panel) began with the 3000's (1983 order, I believe, and if not then, then definitely the following year), which was still GMC.

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, Deucey said:

I might’ve been 14 or 15 when I saw RTS’ with openable windows. I remember RTD had just became LA’s MTA, and the RTS’ had these green-hued windows that opened at the top (like bus windows do now). 

Man, was it UGLY:

79-DF5-D88-08-D4-4-CA0-B87-B-9-EFA0-CBC8

The original LACMTA livery scheme did it no favors. But I imagine the windows saved on fuel burn, and made it more likely that LA met CARB emissions goals.

That window design was never used around here, but it looks like a style possibly used when GMC was trying to convince Canadian TAs to start buying the RTS. Or some of the TAs wanted such a design to create a more "open" feel for customers (like what Mercedes-Benz and the European builders have with their oversized windows).

8 hours ago, Eric B said:

The openable windows (every other window panel) began with the 3000's (1983 order, I believe, and if not then, then definitely the following year), which was still GMC.

That's surprising the MTA went with every-other, given that those buses could become saunas if any problems with the A/C develop, let alone being totally packed (and no real "breeze" created because of how slow travel is).

If you go to this link: Detroit Transit History you can see the styles our RTSes had. While that page goes into the Nova 1995s, the picture of #3263 with the openable windows was what the first-generations RTSes were retrofitted with (still trying to find the YouTube videos of those first RTSes being unveiled by the local news reports to check original deliveries). Further down that page where those SMART buses are lined up at Shoemaker Terminal illustrate how -- even as late as 1995 -- SMART was buying the "solid" windows. Those 1995s (the remaining 7 SMART kept of the order) were the last RTSes they used, while DDOT kept ordering them up to the 2001 orders. (Those SMART Champions shown there were absolute disasters, with customers as well as falling apart mechanically -- but they satisfied politicians and transit naysayers [the money was still flushed down the drain].) All of those 33 buses had the factory windows removed and openable ones installed to look like #3263.

In the write-up, it's noted that DDOT decided to stop ordering the GMC RTSes after their original "gift" fleet due to unreliability, and they never had any of the TMCs like SMART had switched over to once GM killed their bus business. But DDOT ran those originals into the ground and got every last mile of service out of them (they switched over, like the Canadian TAs, to MCI Classics in the 1980s, over to New Flyer D40HFs in the early-90s, and back to RTSes). IIRC, after that Nova 1995 order sale to DDOT and the early writing on the wall that the Champions weren't cutting the mustard, in 1997 SMART started getting the Gillig Phantoms since the TMCs were getting to mid-point life, and all the TMCs were gone (pretty much) by 2002 at the latest.

Edited by DetSMART45

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Found a demonstrator bus - sloped rear end because the A/C condenser not above the engine:

Demonstrator RTS Bus

 

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That was the whole original "look" of the RTS (with the Grumman being the square alternative). The sloped back and smooth sides made it look so futuristic. The first ones I ever saw (and rode) were PVTA, in Springfield, then, shortly afterward, MTA tested one (yes, a slopeback), but then went with the Grumman, until the problems started surfacing, and then went with the squared back RTS, with the swing rear doors that were set back in the body. (I thought the slope back was from having a smaller compressor, rather than from it being located somewhere else).

So the look was gradually eroded, with the square back, rear doors, and then adding the framed, openable windows. The only really distinguishing feature left were the front end (windshield and doors).

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On 5/8/2019 at 10:00 PM, Deucey said:

But will they put the “bought by Port Authority” stickers on the preserved buses or nah?

IINM, none of the saved buses were originally purchased by the Port Authority. 1201 wasn't, 4349 wasn't, and 4396 (0010) wasn't either.

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