Monday, February 7, 2011

Where Are Those Double Talls?

One of the most frequently asked questions we’re getting these days is why aren’t the new Double Tall double decker buses in service yet?

Many people are aware that the buses started arriving last fall and are now parked at our base. They’ve been seen around Everett as they go through road testing.

Fact is, a perfect storm of circumstances has transpired to keep them out of service so far…

A little background: Community Transit leased one double decker three years ago to try out in commuter service to Seattle. The bus can hold twice the number of riders as a typical 40-foot bus in the same amount of space, while using only one driver and roughly the same amount of fuel.

Our pilot testing of this bus went great. People loved the bus – the novelty of the stairs, the great views from above and the smooth ride of a triple-axle, single-frame chassis. We did a dwell time study for the Seattle Department of Transportation to see if it took longer to load and unload the Double Tall on busy downtown streets. The result: no. In fact, the shorter length of the bus compared to articulated buses helped to keep vehicles from “blocking the box” at rush hour.

The leased bus (yes, we only had one!) went back to the manufacturer and, in 2009, thanks to federal stimulus funding, Community Transit placed an order for 23 Double Talls to replace the oldest articulated buses in our fleet.

Now the storm…

Because Community Transit uses federal funding to buy its buses, there is a “Buy America” requirement – buses must be substantially built in the U.S. using mostly American-made parts.

The winner of our public bid for the double deckers was Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) of Great Britain – the world’s leading double decker manufacturer. To stake its claim in the American market, ADL specifically bid to build a “Buy America” compliant double decker, it’s first ever.

This new build process for ADL created some new issues with the buses, from working with new subcontractors to manufacturing at a U.S. plant. Some of these issues are still being resolved to meet Community Transit’s high standards. At the same time, our mechanics are spending lots of time with these buses to get to know how they work, installing ORCA, fare box and other equipment, and placing a new set of decals on these 14-foot tall buses.

We’re just about ready to hand these buses over to the drivers for training and they will soon (don’t ask for a date) be on the road!

The good news is we know that our customers are looking forward to these buses, and we know they will love them. The buses will save fuel and maintenance costs over those 1995-built artics they are replacing. They will expand capacity for riders, which is a good thing after the service cuts last year created more crowded commuter buses.

And, while we haven’t had the chance to test this yet, the Double Talls should perform well in icy conditions. Similar buses in other cities have been able to operate well in those conditions. Most of our commuter fleet is articulated buses, so when snowy or icy conditions hit we have to take those buses off the road. The Double Talls should help us to have enough buses to carry passenger demand during those bad weather periods.


  1. Will the coaches be assigned to certain routes or will it be somewhat random?

  2. The buses will operate on certain routes but it is likely to be hit or miss regarding the specific trips they will run on.

    Once the buses are in service we will list which routes they will serve on our website, but again, we will not be able to say which specific trips on those routes the bus will run. Good question!

  3. Huh? How did RTC in Las Vegas get their double deckers then?

    Aren't they subject to "Buy America" and aren't their buses also from Alexander Dennis?

  4. Yes, the double deckers in Las Vegas are made by Alexander Dennis. RTC got a waiver from Buy America compliance for those, which is granted in some cases.

    Community Transit did not seek a waiver for two reasons:
    1) The money we used to purchase these buses was ARRA federal stimulus money, not regular federal transit formula funding. This money came with very specific provisions for Buy America compliance. (A waiver likely would not have been granted.)
    2) Waivers require specific conditions and take a lot of time. The fact is we would like to be able to buy more double deckers in the future that are to the same specifications as the first order. It was in our interest (and Alexander Dennis') to have a Buy America complaint double decker on the market so our agency or others could order them using federal funds on a shorter timeline.

  5. Can you shed some light on the new issues that are still being resolved? Is there a chance that the the buses will not meet Buy American requirements?

  6. Will the double decker buses do routes out of kasch park base only? Or will the Merrill creek base have the double deckers as well?

  7. At this time the plan is to put Double Talls on only those routes that run out of our Kasch Park Operating Base. It would have been too expensive to build lifts and maintenance bays to handle these buses at both bases.

    Also, there are only three commuter routes to Seattle run out of our Merrill Creek Operating Base and one of them, Route 412, could not use the Double Tall due to the height limits at McCollum Park Park & Ride.

    The Buy America status for these buses is not threatened. It is just taking longer to get the buses road-ready, and some of that can be attributed to the new process and vendors required by Buy America.

  8. Show me the bus! I have ridden similiar double deckers elsewhere. The view is great from the upper deck.

  9. It's been 5 months since the first double talls arrived in Everett. Just how long does it take to prepare a bus for service? What is CT not telling the public about the problems CT has encountered with these buses?

  10. There was one in service last week or the week before. I saw it from my window in downtown. I haven't seen it again.