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Double Deckers as Express Buses

A guest column overviewing double-decker bus technology.
Today we are proud to feature a guest column by longtime portlandtransport.com contributor Ron Swaren, who writes on the subject of using double-decker busses for express and high-capacity routes, especially as a substitute for articulated busses. –EngineerScotty

London is famous for its intra-city double decker buses. They have not really been used for long distance, express route to suburban destinations yet are popular with visitors to London proper. It’s a bit hard to use surface transport for suburban routes in London, anyway, since the city measures 50 miles from west end to east end. Many of the bright-red Routemaster buses have also been sold around the world, showing up often as tour buses with the top removed.
The iconic Routemaster bus was introduced in the early 1950’s, but various concerns have finally led to its replacement with updated technology. Several new models have been recently introduced. According to blogger Bridgette Meinhold:

Transport for London has been working on a new, more efficient, double-decker bus for London to replace the classic Routemaster. Today, London Mayor Boris Johnson and Transport for London officially unveiled the new bus co-designed by The Wright Group and Thomas Heatherwick. The new design uses the latest in green hybrid technology and will be 15% more fuel efficient than existing hybrid buses, 40% more efficient than conventional diesel double decks, and much quieter on the streets.

Another new model in London is the Volvo B5L (Wikipedia) According to inhabit.com, these busses “feature a parallel hybrid I-SAM (Integrated Starter, Alternator, Motor) system, which uses an electric motor and a hybrid engine to power the vehicle. The buses can go up to 12mph in electric mode, after which, the diesel engines steps in. The speed of 12mph might not sound like much, but it is quite perfect for most bus routes.” (Image courtesy of Volvo).


In the Pacific Northwest, British Columbian cities, Kelowna and Victoria, are both using Alexander Dennis Enviro500 models, as is Everett Washington, which has ordered 23 vehicles. Toronto, Canada has 22 in use. The Enviro 500 are also seeing use in Las Vegas and in two communities in Southern California. In Asia there are probably hundreds, if not a few thousand of this model in use. Hong Kong has a total of over 4000 double-decker buses in its fleet.

Another popular DD model, often used in a touring configuration, is the Van Hool TD925. One of these was at the Oregon Convention Center a couple of years ago as part of a nationwide tour. New York City has tested them out but not committed to their use. A video of one of these in action can be seen here:

But what about express use on US freeways? Well, take a look at Commmunity Transit (Everett. WA) which will place 23 “DoubleTall” busses into use this year, commuting from Everett to Seattle via I-5. These are rated at 73 seated passengers, or 90 total. Community Transit also claims 11 percent less fuel usage and 26 percent less maintenance than an articulated bus. I have seen the passenger rating for similar buses in Berlin as up to 128 persons. Here is how Community Transit sums up the features:

Twice as Smart: The double decker can seat 73 and accommodate 90 passengers total in the same footprint as a 40-passenger bus. This means it will take less fuel to transport more passengers while taking up less space on the road… an important advantage given the ever-increasing traffic in the region.