The Benefits of Small Buses

One interesting finding from last week’s junket to Vancouver, B.C. is the range of transit vehicles in use, from SkyTrain (more on SkyTrain in another post) and catamaran ferries to trolley buses and more traditional diesel buses.

I was struck by the use of smaller diesel buses. When I inquired, I was told that these were used on somewhat lower ridership routes. They are branded as “Community Shuttles” and are popular both because they more easily integrate with neighborhood scale, and because they are more social (on a smaller bus you’re more likely to interact with the driver and fellow passengers – something I’ve noticed on the small buses SMART uses on some runs).

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One interesting finding from last week’s junket to Vancouver, B.C. is the range of transit vehicles in use, from SkyTrain (more on SkyTrain in another post) and catamaran ferries to trolley buses and more traditional diesel buses.

I was struck by the use of smaller diesel buses. When I inquired, I was told that these were used on somewhat lower ridership routes. They are branded as “Community Shuttles” and are popular both because they more easily integrate with neighborhood scale, and because they are more social (on a smaller bus you’re more likely to interact with the driver and fellow passengers – something I’ve noticed on the small buses SMART uses on some runs).

When I’ve been in neighborhood conversations where TriMet was asked about smaller buses, the answer has always been that the operating costs are essentially the same as a larger vehicle because the operator labor costs are the major driver. So I was very interested to hear that in Vancouver, the union had allowed a separate pay tier for operators of smaller buses. I didn’t dive into this, but I’m guessing that they hoped to get a few more jobs out of it. I wonder if the skill/training requirements are less for the smaller buses.

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