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I have been away for... a long time. Things have been crazy for me lately! But I was stoked to read that bit about ACT and New Flyer. It's about time AC began using their buses again! This is great news to me, especially on top of the Gillig contract. :D

I imagine they will, anyway... it hasn't been around that long, and I think it works pretty well.

Ehhhh... Honestly, I don't find it to be a shame. Just the opposite, in fact.

The Van Hools are "different", but they're not actually all that "good". AC Transit, with it's perpetual financial issues, should never have bought expensive buses from freakin Belgium. Paying the shipping for that was not something they could afford, especially compared to what they'd pay for buses from NABI, New Flyer, or (especially) Gillig, whose facilities are in AC Transit's service area. To say nothing of the fact that buying buses that are made and completely finished entirely overseas, and then are shipped here at the agency's expense, is pretty much the opposite of "buying American."

The Van Hools only really became the fleet mainstay because Rick Fernandez and a few others at the top of the ACT hierarchy got a bee in their bonnet about this idea that they would be far superior to American made buses. They're not. They're just buses. Supposedly, their maintenance costs would be far lower, but that didn't turn out to be true at all. They have a couple of advantages, but not in a unique way: like the vast majority of buses, they have their advantages and disadvantages when compared to other models. The advantages aren't special, and frankly, I feel they are outweighed by the disadvantages (most of which have to do with the wacko seating configuration, with tons of backward-facing seats, high-floor islands every few feet, and frequently very cramped seating conditions that put you nose-to-nose with a stranger if you sit in some of those backward-facing seats. The horrid ride quality in the 60-footer doesn't help their case, either).

Thanks for the response! May I ask what the advantages are--even though they are not special?

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Thanks for the response! May I ask what the advantages are--even though they are not special?

I think one was more doors, 3 on a 40' and 4 on a 60'. Large windows all around is another feature.

Locally the First Transit operated 2008 Van Hools at the U of MN Twin Cities campuses work well for that service due to the extra doors and free fare boarding. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future though when those buses come up for replacement. Considering at the U they replaced 5 year old D60LF and 6 year old Gillig LF it may not be so far off. (The Gilligs are still in service, just reassigned to other First contracts. Last I saw though the D60LF are just sitting in the yard.) As ABQ pointed out, AC might not keep theirs around 12 years either. Theirs replaced a lot of NABIs that still had/have some life left in them.

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The original idea with the VanHools were to have coaches on lease, replaced every 7 years to avoid the maintenance bell curve (after about 6-7 years, the cost of maintenance goes up significantly, due to the need to essentially rebuild the bus). Obviously that is no longer the plan, and I would not want to speculate on how long the coaches will live in service. I do think they can last 12 years though, as VanHool had previously built many coaches for transit operators in the eastern provinces of Canada, and the Swiss/Belgians keep their transit coaches for a very long time (15-20 years is not unheard of).

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Wow, no more Van Hool's!? These XD60's should look great in the current AC Transit livery! (If they keep the current livery that is..)

Comes down to using Federal funding so no more Van Hools!

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Sorry to disappear for a while, things have been a little crazy lately! In compensation for the delay, I offer another wall of text :lol:

Thanks for the response! May I ask what the advantages are--even though they are not special?

MVTArider hit on the big one: the third door (fourth on the 60-footers). Honestly, I just don't think it makes all that much difference. Maybe if there were literal throngs of people all trying to get on and off at once, this might be a bigger benefit... I'm not convinced it's really a big deal even in that scenario, but regardless, that's just not how things are with AC's ridership and service area anyway. Plus, they use 100% pay-at-the-front-door fare collection on all lines at all times, regardless of if you are using cash, smart card, transfers, etc. So all of those rear doors are exit only. And one small thing that kind of amuses me, since the whole point of the extra door is speeding up de-boarding: the first rear door is this swing-out plug type, and it is often painfully slow to open. The second rear door has more traditional sliders; they are still wide and are much faster. I don't really understand why they didn't just use those for the middle door.

I think the windows may be a bit bigger than those on the NABI's, but the difference really isn't that noticeable to me.

The only other significant advantage is that they have a bit more standing room. The middle section has a sort of open area where the flip-up, inward facing seats are, right in front of the first rear door. However, this - along with the existence of the third door - does come at the expense of seats. There is nothing so remarkable, nor especially bad, about this; it's a decision, do you remove some seats to make your standees more comfortable? Some other bus models do the same thing, sacrificing seats to make more standing room, while some others don't.

That's what I meant when I said they "weren't special", there's nothing so unique or amazing about them. I think part of my wording came from the fact that several years ago, several of those responsible for making the Van Hool thing happen in the first place were still trying to claim they WERE. There were press releases and statements claiming that these buses would "change the face of North American urban transit forever", and whatnot, even after it had long been revealed that they really aren't super buses. They're just buses. They really are not AWFUL, despite my griping, though I do personally feel they are inferior to New Flyers or Gilligs, generally, and riding a 60-foot Van Hool on the freeway is not a pleasant experience. The issue is that on top of being mediocre, you have not buying American (they had to do this "technically legal" money swap thing, spending federal funds on maintenance and spending general operating funds on buying the buses, to skirt around Buy American requirements to even GET the Van Hools in the first place), spending gobs of money to import buses from Belgium, allegations that some of these paid expense trips to Europe to "inspect the buses" were more pleasure than business, and the fact that AC Transit officials wanted us to believe they were the greatest thing since sliced bread... When really, the reality was that they were just buses, but Rick Fernandez became obsessed with the idea that these things were leagues better than anything a North American bus company could produce, and sold AC Transit a bill of goods to get them to buy into it.

They needed to be amazing after all that. Even if I felt they were perfectly on par with, say, a D40/60LFR in every way, they would still have been a massive waste, because they cost way more due to where they came from, and they were built entirely overseas, doing nothing for the economy at either a local or national level.

Complicating all of this, by the way, is the Van Hool A300L, which was introduced later. It has a different seating configuration, with more seats and less standing room than the original A330, and only one rear door. It's like a cross between an A330 and a NABI 40-LFW. So I'm not sure what the point of that was: it almost seems like a contradiction in a way, since it does away with several of the things that make the A330 what it is. (Incidentally, the A300L also has windows that are fully sealed, single panes: they don't open at all. Which makes these buses uncomfortable during summer, and an absolute nightmare during an uncommon - but not unheard of - 95-100 degree Bay Area heatwave). Granted, AC doesn't have nearly as many of them as they do the A330's, but it's still odd.

Comes down to using Federal funding so no more Van Hools!

That too. I don't think anyone is going to let them pull a fast one like they did before. Nor should they.

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That too. I don't think anyone is going to let them pull a fast one like they did before. Nor should they.

Before when the Van Hools were bought I heard it was local and state funding so it didnt matter on "Buy America" but this order is with Federal funds so it has to be!

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Before when the Van Hools were bought I heard it was local and state funding so it didnt matter on "Buy America" but this order is with Federal funds so it has to be!

Yes, they used non-federal funds to buy the Van Hools, but the way they did it was the problem.

There was no way they could afford to buy Van Hools AND pay their normal maintenance and operational costs without using federal funds. All of those costs couldn't come out of state and local funds, there just wasn't enough. So they pulled this fund swap: they used the federal funds for maintenance, which was technically legal but not really what the funds were meant for, and by doing so, they freed up the equivalent amount of money that hadn't come from federal sources, enabling them to buy the Van Hools.

So, not technically against the regulations, but kinda shady, and completely pointless.

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Yes, they used non-federal funds to buy the Van Hools, but the way they did it was the problem.

There was no way they could afford to buy Van Hools AND pay their normal maintenance and operational costs without using federal funds. All of those costs couldn't come out of state and local funds, there just wasn't enough. So they pulled this fund swap: they used the federal funds for maintenance, which was technically legal but not really what the funds were meant for, and by doing so, they freed up the equivalent amount of money that hadn't come from federal sources, enabling them to buy the Van Hools.

So, not technically against the regulations, but kinda shady, and completely pointless.

Guess it was also to support local company ABC which was the importer of the Van Hools.

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Oakland, Calif.-based AC Transit launched new, 40-foot Gillig buses that are locally-made and well-designed to promise greater reliability and a better ride for customers.

With a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its Seminary Avenue bus yard, the agency embraced a “Buy America” policy by unveiling the first of 65 new Gillig buses. It is the first step toward upgrading a fleet of nearly 700 buses by opting to buy as many as 300 American-made buses over the next two years to replace aging, less dependable vehicles.

The Gillig bus purchase kicks-off AC Transit’s “A Better Ride” campaign of service and performance enhancing initiatives throughout the agency. Among other things, the initiatives are designed to improve on-time bus performance, internal efficiencies and overall service reliability. The campaign will also include a quality assurance program to maintain cleaner buses.

AC Transit’s contract with Gillig provided dozens of local jobs, spurred local business and stimulated the regional economy.

Source: http://www.metro-magazine.com/news/story/2013/03/ac-transit-adds-first-of-65-gilligs.aspx

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Odd they didn't go with the BRT. I think the Van Hools were primarily bought for being stylish, and now they are going with the rather plain Gillig LF. They could have at least gone with the BRT if they wanted stylish Buy America compliant buses.

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The BRT design would look too much like the VanHools, which a fair percentage of passengers loath.

Better mirror placement and that non-ridicules side wipers for the mirror. This means farewell to their HF NABI now!

I wonder if AC got new management after so many citizen of complaints of the Van Hool on poor ride quality!

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Yeah, Rick Fernandez... didn't do any of us any favors during his tenure.

As for Advantage/"standard" Gillig low-floor vs. BRT, does the latter cost more money? That would be a good reason right there; AC is trying to recoup from the whole Van Hool thing in terms of public perception, but also (and perhaps more importantly) wants to acquire new, more reliable buses without breaking the (always tenuous) bank. Either way, I'm just happy to see my local agency buying sensibly again. :)

Speaking of the new Gilligs, look what I found! AC Transit 1307-Gillig Advantage-O

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Yeah, Rick Fernandez... didn't do any of us any favors during his tenure.

As for Advantage/"standard" Gillig low-floor vs. BRT, does the latter cost more money? That would be a good reason right there; AC is trying to recoup from the whole Van Hool thing in terms of public perception, but also (and perhaps more importantly) wants to acquire new, more reliable buses without breaking the (always tenuous) bank. Either way, I'm just happy to see my local agency buying sensibly again. :)

Speaking of the new Gilligs, look what I found! http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/

Not sure if the BRT costs more money, but both are probably cheaper than the New Flyer Xcelsior, Nova LFS, and NABI LFW 3G, considering Gillig is known to underbid the others frequently.

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Not sure if the BRT costs more money, but both are probably cheaper than the New Flyer Xcelsior, Nova LFS, and NABI LFW 3G, considering Gillig is known to underbid the others frequently.

I think its safe to say that the BRT option would have cost more, although I'm too lazy to look for evidence of that right this moment.

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They're trying to cut corners, or those buses were BADLY needed. The 1307 doesn't have LED headlights like 1301 does

Or other bells and whistles from the Van Hool era like full-color destination signs. Seems like AC is really changing course from the Rick Fernandez days.

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RE: the notice that FC13 is retired or stored on the wiki...

It's quite possible that AC Transit skipped FC13 altogether, since there's so many triscadecophobes out there. ("Scared/afraid of the number13")

In fact I notice that on the serial numbers, FC12 and FC14 are consecutive...

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I think its safe to say that the BRT option would have cost more, although I'm too lazy to look for evidence of that right this moment.

Yes it does cost a bit more, not too much but at least $10,000 - $20,000 per bus IIRC. (I have an actual cost change order in a board report somewhere, I'll look for it sometime.)

Interior of 1302 can be seen here: http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/

Freedman Seating CitiPro. With those hardshell inserts again it makes me wonder if they had vandalism issues with the upholstered seats on the Van Hools.

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Are those seats padded in any way? They look horrible to sit in.

Nope.

They also ordered Allison Transmission back too. So, it seems to be this is a huge, cheapest specs orders without much of the options!

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Are those seats padded in any way? They look horrible to sit in.

Nope they aren't. We have seats like that with Lynx on our 2006-2008 Gillig BRTs. They are horrible to sit on especially when going over rough roads and on long rides. Vandalism is an issue for anyone with upholstered seats, but are a lot more comfortable to ride on. It's just a matter of people taking care of the inside of the buses, which is the main issue. By the way I've found information on older buses and the seats they used. Well mostly the seats they used.

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Yes it does cost a bit more, not too much but at least $10,000 - $20,000 per bus IIRC. (I have an actual cost change order in a board report somewhere, I'll look for it sometime.)

Interior of 1302 can be seen here: http://www.flickr.co...in/photostream/

Freedman Seating CitiPro. With those hardshell inserts again it makes me wonder if they had vandalism issues with the upholstered seats on the Van Hools.

So it seems AC Transit is changing its fleets interior as well.

Nope they aren't. We have seats like that with Lynx on our 2006-2008 Gillig BRTs. They are horrible to sit on especially when going over rough roads and on long rides. Vandalism is an issue for anyone with upholstered seats, but are a lot more comfortable to ride on. It's just a matter of people taking care of the inside of the buses, which is the main issue. By the way I've found information on older buses and the seats they used. Well mostly the seats they used.

From personal experience, those seats are like sitting on tightly wound rubber bands.

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