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Aging bus fleet limps along

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The MTA bus fleet isn't aging gracefully.


Because demand is forcing more additional buses onto the street, more than one out of four in operation are at least 12 years old, the age when the vehicles are supposed to be retired.


Mechanics say they have increasingly found themselves tearing out engines and bus underbellies, while some drivers just blatantly refuse to get behind the wheel of the older models.


Expensive overhauls bring the old clunkers back to life, but it hasn't transformed ugly ducklings into swans - meaning more breakdowns and delays for riders.


“Everyday the rails are cracking, the bulkheads are cracking,” said Bob Keith, a bus mechanic for 24 years who is running to become a union leader. “We are welding them all and putting them back into service. But that's a temporary fix.”


One driver, who asked not to be named, said many of the buses are 10 to 15 years old.


New York City roads wreak havoc on a bus's chassis as it ages. Mechanics say they are gutting more of them, and would prefer customers had newer vehicles to ride in.


“When a chassis breaks, anything could be imaginable,” said Keith. “It's a scary thought.”


Bus failures in January were up 20 percent compared to 2007, according to MTA figures.


"The buses just keep getting worse and worse, slower and slower," said Joseph London, of Manhattan. "It's always crowded, even at the off-peak times when I ride."


The breakdowns aren't an everyday occurrence, but when one bus fails, its passengers have to wait for a replacement, an inconvenience that backs up the entire route.


“The bus just doesn't show up, it's late or it's packed,” said William Henderson, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA.


Sandra Darbasie, of Manhattan, said she recently suffered through a scary breakdown on a city bus.


“We smelled something burning in the back,” Darbasie said. “(The driver) stopped the bus and we had to wait a while for a replacement.”


Joseph Smith, president of MTA bus operations, recently told the agency’s board that the older buses have become a costly thorn in the its side.


“We have some serious structural problems with these buses,” Smith told the board.


Ironically, a growth of ridership has fueled the need to resurrect and maintain older buses, Smith said. In 2006, the MTA absorbed seven private routes operating in the boroughs. Those lines experienced a 10 percent increase in ridership between 2007 and 2008.


The MTA bought hundreds of new hybrid buses when it took over the private lines, but some of the old models remained in service.


By year's end, the MTA will receive 850 new hybrid buses that will allow them to replace many - but not all - of the vintage models.


“It's an old fleet as far as buses go,” Henderson said.


Smith said the buses in operations are safe and do not pose a danger to passengers.

“When (a bus) is too old, we stop it and sell it,” he said.


Andrew Breiner contributed to this report.


Buses in the Big Apple

1,700: buses in the fleet are 12 years or older.

6,200: total buses in the fleet

3,950: average number of miles between bus breakdowns in January, up 20 percent from 2007

968 million: total rides in 2008

2.4 million: average weekday ridership in January

390: routes in the city



Source: AM- New York (April 1, 2009)

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An RTS never broke down on me



When I operated out of KB when they were mostly RTSs, I never had one break down on me. Only the Orion V, and articulateds, were the breakers for me.......

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Shoot......I have ran out of gas.....won't start.......to all of a sudden not go over 20.....no trainsmission fluid.......it was bone dry!!!.....I could keep going but u get the point.....CNG's = junk!! :) :eek: B)





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Shoot......I have ran out of gas.....won't start.......to all of a sudden not go over 20.....no trainsmission fluid.......it was bone dry!!!.....I could keep going but u get the point.....CNG's = junk!! :P :eek: ;)






Hey guys i guess most of you (except for my friend Ulmer) have not ridden on the Ulmer Park depot in SW Brooklyn. Ulmer is still only NYCT/MTA Bus left (correct me if i am wrong) still only RTS/GMC's with a few 'newer' hand me downs RTS" from other depots bulit in 1999-2000 almost a decade ago.

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Hudson River, Jamiaca Depot is the last 100% RTS depot left.


The one flaw with that article is they don't realize that buses are better maintained now than they were in the late-80's.



I was talking 'local buses' 33rd. I am fully aware Ulmer has the MCI coach buses for the express buses.:cool: But thanks for letting me about Jamaica depot as well as being 100% RTS still.

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Shoot......I have ran out of gas.....won't start.......to all of a sudden not go over 20.....no trainsmission fluid.......it was bone dry!!!.....I could keep going but u get the point.....CNG's = junk!! :P :eek: ;)





Maybe College Point is junk...
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Yeah I know right...

The O7s are getting messed up from the potholes.


So did the RTSs at KB, but even with the different makers of them, it was basically the same bus, so they had many years of experience getting it right for NYC streets. Orion on the other hand, did not yet. Those Orion VII CNG, I have seen on the back of the tow truck also. They have issues with them things also. The artics are just too heavy, and have 2 huge A/Cs', for that tiny engine. MTA needs to do an engine overhaul, and put either a Cummins are CAt in those things (just the older dragging dawgs of the artic world). During the summer they break down in huge numbers, and hit too many hard potholes, the rear shocks and bellows go on one side or the other.......


Shoot......I have ran out of gas.....won't start.......to all of a sudden not go over 20.....no trainsmission fluid.......it was bone dry!!!.....I could keep going but u get the point.....CNG's = junk!! :P :eek: ;)







When that stuff happened to me, I kept going until it wouldn't go no more.........

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when i used 2 go to high school i graduated in 2005 i attended in 2001 to 2005

yukon haD tons of rts some orions to


they had the oldest going back to 1982 those were the 7000 serious rtses

origanel they were 1000 series or 2000 series rtses they were over hauled and renumberd to 7000 series number rtses


we haD them


7040 to 7049


those are 1982 those were rtses with coushin seats


3949 and 3901


those are 1985


we had i`m guess 60 rtses numbered 4000 sumthing series rts


those are 1986 and 1987


but yukon had alot of 8000 series rts

those are 1990


so i think they should never have retired them should have kept them in service.


yukon had some orions to that were once express busses


126 162 169 123


those were orions with coushin seats but they were used on school trips and the seat were ripped up the coushins to a point that it needed new seats

and when u tap the seat with ur hand dust would fly out.

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I'll take a 15 year old Orion V over a brand new Orion VII. I detest low floor buses.


I agree,is to bad that the mta can't buy high floors buses because they can't afford wheelchair lifts.


as for the breakdown I seen few in the early 90s with the old TMC Rts and new orion V that the time.

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Based on the data, buses age much faster than subway cars. This is caused mostly by the environmental factors (including the road surface etc...), right?
Yessir, Canada still got New Looks in service while we're here retiring RTS' because they're just about 1.5-2 decades old.
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That AM article is SUCH F-ing crap!:mad: They should take a look at what Lublin, Poland uses! I've never had an RTS break down on me, nor an Orion V. The only time a bus has broken down on me is in Poland, whenever I go visit my family during the summer. They aren't THAT bad, but still, the average age of a bus or trolleybus in Lublin is 16.8 years. So you have roughly half of the entire bus/trolleybus fleet consisting of 20/25+ year old, Eastern Bloc quality (low quality) Hungarian-made Ikarus 280.26 (articulated buses), Ikarus 260.04 (regular buses), Polish-made Jelcz M11 (regular buses), and Jelcz PR110E (regular trolleybuses). These writers of the AM article must have never been outside of America.:mad: If they brought a 15-year old RTS over to Lublin, people would be amazed. It would literally be like a caveman discovering fire. I will always remember waiting for buses that never came, or buses breaking mid-route, or being woken up at around 11:30PM by the noise of these rattletraps heading back to the depot. I will also remember the dark grey trail of smoke that they leave behind whenevr they pull away from a bus stop, or start on a green light. I am not joking. THIS IS POLAND!:eek:

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Well, if someone also brought a RTS to China. The folks over there would also look at it as an awesome bus. I have went on multiple chinese busses and some of them look like they are approximately 16-26 years old...


I agree with you 100%. I myself was in Beijing for 8 days in February of 2008. I know EXACTLY what you mean.

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