The text, in case you can’t read it:
COOLING IT Montreal Transit Corp. crew and a city firefighter check a 211 bus that caught fire outside the Lionel Groulx métro station yesterday. The fire was caused by mechanical problems, police said, and no one was hurt.
Death trap? What death trap?
(As I mentioned to a concerned fellow traveller yesterday, nobody is seriously injured in these kinds of fires, since they take a while to get this intense and the buses are pretty well designed to be able to get everyone out quickly. Still, spontaneous combustion is a concern.)
The STM board of directors have approved a plan to buy new hybrid buses from NovaBus and run them on some routes next year.
The list of routes (66, 80, 103, 105, 162, 165, 166, 535) seems a bit biased toward Cote-des-Neiges and NDG (only one of the routes doesn’t travel through that borough), which also happens to be the home of Tremblayite Snowdon city councillor and STM vice-chair Marvin Rotrand. But we probably shouldn’t read too much into that.
Instead, let us celebrate the awarding of a new contract to NovaBus, a company that loves to create lemons when experimenting with new designs for buses, confident that because they’re the only Quebec company in the business, gross incompetence won’t stop the customer from coming back for more.
Back in 1996, it was seen as the biggest leap in Montreal transportation in decades. The STCUM was replacing the
General Motors … MCI … NovaBus Classic series with a new, revolutionary low-floor (LFS) bus being developed by St-Eustache-based NovaBus. The new buses would be more accessible, both for people with low mobility who would now have one step up instead of four, and people on wheelchairs who would have a ramp at the back door and a place to park their wheelchair safely.
NovaBus wasn’t the only low-floor player, nor were they the best. But they were Quebec-based, which meant it was politically favourable to buy from them and have the buses produced locally, and tax incentives made it much more economical to buy from them.
The problems with the bus began rather quickly. First, there was the minor issue of the brake lines freezing in winter, which caused them to accelerate when the brakes were applied. Then there was their propensity to randomly catch fire. And a host of other problems that mechanics are having to deal with: the wheelchair ramps don’t work (the STM still encourages use of their adapted transit network), the back-door sensor doesn’t work reliably, two seats in the front faced a wall behind the driver (causing clients to hit their heads when the bus came to a sudden stop).
But the STM kept buying the buses. 480 of them over three years. After that, the STM stopped buying buses due to budget constraints, and NovaBus revamped their design. The second-generation LFS buses, which the STM started buying in 2001, solved most of those problems, but there aren’t enough of them on the road to take the first batch (or for that matter, 6-7 years worth of Classics) out of service. So we’re stuck with them.
And the problems keep coming. For the past two days, about 60 of them were taken off the street for various problems, cutting service during rush hours by about 1 per cent. (via mtlweblog) It’s gotten so bad that the STM prefers using the older Classic buses longer than the first-generation LFS, since they’re still working fine.