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Orion VIII

King County Metro - Seattle, Washington

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On 6/17/2019 at 7:12 PM, roamer said:

Ah, that's why I see 3260 at odd times on odd routes (especially like on the weekends).  I actually had thought of that  ...that, "hmm, maybe the person driving 3260 has been granted permission to be assigned that coach, like a medical condition or maybe he/she is the Operator of the Year who specifically has asked for that coach?"

Although 3260 was not out today, 3430 was in revenue service for a short time today so they are not completely retired yet. 

What you say makes sense then  ...that maybe two or three will be in service until the end of August.  I'm thinking that the 1100s could be around too until  that time  ...unless they pick up the pace of introducing the Gillig LFs into service. 

(sorry for the initial freudian slip)

It was reported elsewhere that 3260's transmission has failed. 

Unclear what the Operator of the Year will drive for the remainder of his tenure. 

I found 3260 to be a fairly worn out coach, lots of rattles, not a great ride, interior in worn condition when I rode with the operator of the year on Sunday this spring.

I also rode 3430 and it was in shockingly good condition. 

It was sort of a strange juxtaposition between those two coaches. 3260 was a lifetime East Campus coach ... most of those coaches were in great shape as the service they saw was a little more ... light duty than what some of the other Bases put their coaches through.

Meanwhile, 3430 was one of the "Ryerson Base 30" when Ryerson first received a batch of 30 Gilligs from Central Base when the 1998 option order was delivered. Ryerson's scheduler promptly assigned them to all day base 17/130/132 and 24/136/137 runs, where they would operate on very long urban route families for 20hrs a day, 7 days a week. The whole fleet was signed out on weekends. With no trippers in the mix, this group of coaches wore out very, very quickly and most of them were pretty rough around the edges for the remainder of their service life. Somehow though, in the end, it all balanced out and I was pretty impressed by 3430 when I rode it last spring.

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48 minutes ago, Border City Transit said:

Absolute end of an era.

I don't know. It seems like, without anyone ever expecting it, Gillig Phantoms earned status as some of the best, most iconic buses that Metro ever had. At least to me, they were the face of "Seattle transit rising". Like, "hey everyone else, we have great transit here in the Emerald City -- largely bus-based -- and it looks like this."

I recall when Metro ordered them in ~1996. It seemed unlikely -- how could these ever live up to the mighty Flyers? Read through my posts -- I am not a Gillig fan. But those Phantoms were phenomenal and I will miss them sorely. I particularly appreciated their versatility. They always felt like the right bus for the job, whether on a city route, a suburban route, a freeway route, etc.

As they fade to memories at Metro, what is the general consensus on their ~22-year stint in the fleet?

Is there relief that they're "finally" gone? Or will others miss them, too?

I'll weigh in. 

I'm now solidly an adult but when the Gilligs first were introduced, I was in my early teens with a slightly abnormal interest in buses ;-).

When they were brand new, brand new, there was certainly the novelty factor. The interior was so different, the paint stood out, and features like the MegaMax destination sign were revolutionary. They were quiet and comfortable, and rode well. The 1600-series Flyers were my favorite coaches to ride growing up, but no doubt about it, they were well past their expiration date by the time they were retired. For the operators, the Gilligs were a huge upgrade in driver's station comfort and ergonomics compared to the Flyers.

As the years went by, they became kind of - meh. There were a lot of them, you could ride them anywhere in the system, and they all seemed pretty interchangeable (except for the Ryerson Base 30 - mentioned in another post, which were heavily worn). Rattles started to appear in many of the coaches, and they didn't seem to be wearing very well. 

I remember a long time Ryerson night driver I rode with for years (until he retired about a decade ago) saying circa 2002 - the Gilligs are nice but you can tell they're wearing out. When they are the age the 3000s are now, they won't be in nearly the same shape. So the 3000s were 16 then - a generally unpopular coach among operators - and they were fully retired at 18 in 2004. The remaining 40ft Gilligs outlived the 3000s by 5 full years of service. 

The interesting thing is, they did wear a lot when they were new. But then they didn't seem to get much worse. Of course, the fleet thinned considerably with the recession cutbacks and the delivery of the Orions, which meant some of the roughest coaches were shown the door early. And many of the coaches that remained were in very good shape - North Base's original set of 3485-3529 being in nearly mint condition as a group at the time North Base finally traded them out around 2012. 

In four successive trips to Seattle starting last Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to ride: 3260 3302 3321 3430 3449 3500 3541  and 3560. 3260 and 3321 were in the roughest shape - but the rest were outstanding performers - some of them were "like new" which is unbelievable considering their age.

To your point above, they really were the perfect bus for any situation - they were at home on suburban commuter routes, and could easily do a days work on busy urban routes. 

I think most will look back fondly on them. They were really good coaches - coaches we took for granted for too many years.

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As a driver, my fondness for the Gillig Phantoms stems from the fact that the order was initially planned to be Orion V 's running on LNG.  Of course, Gary Locke nixed that and we ended up with the Phantoms which I personally preferred.  Being  a traditionalist back then, I simply liked diesel for some strange reason.  

Not only did I not necessarily agree with the King County Council's decision that LNG would be better for the environment but actually disputed that fact that the benefits pertaining to emissions would be significantly better than using the "clean diesel" engines that the Gillig Phantoms would be equipped with once they arrived especially considering how much more the cost would be to use LNG.  I can't remember the reasons why they chose LNG over CNG.

Personally, I just didn't think it made much sense to spend what could have been almost a half-billion dollars for the LNG Orions including all the expensive infrastructure upgrades that would have to be done at each base.

Obviously, Gary Locke didn't think so either and he nixed the LNG Orions in favor of the "clean diesel" Gillig Phantoms.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I recall Gillig bringing a test coach up from California to the bases in order to demonstrate the diesel particulate filters.  They put a clean white handkerchief over the exhaust opening and put the engine through various RPM and under-load simulations with the handkerchief being left over the exhaust pipe.  They then removed the handkerchief and passed it around for those of us gathered to examine.  There was hardly any soot or traces of dirt evident.  In later tests, I seem to recall that "clean diesel" technology at the time showed it was actually a bit better environmentally than using LNG with similar filters  ...I didn't quite understand those results but because of the significant savings using "clean diesel" compared to LNG, the difference either way was not worth making a fuss over.

Gary Locke made the correct decision at that time in my opinion ...many, however, disagree.   The political correct decision at the time was to use natural gas.

The Metro mechanics I used to chat with all liked working on the Gilligs and felt that they were the best built and easiest to work on at that time of any bus made.  In my observation, the Gilligs had many more features and seemed much more solidly built than a comparable Orion V that we may have ended up with.  

Natural gas announcement, Seattle Times:  Metro To Convert To Natural-Gas Buses -- Switch Would Cost Agency $456 Million

Gary Locke decision, Spokane Spokesman-Review:   King County Will Buy 360 Buses To Replace Fleet

 

 

_________________

Interesting news about 3260 having transmission troubles.  3430 is the only 40' Phantom I've observed in service the last three days.   I wonder if that's now the coach that the Operator of the Year is driving?   In Metro's announcement last year of Operator of the Year (three of them tied, evidently), they mentioned that the operator out of Bellevue was working the 246 weekdays and 235 on Sundays  ...I thought it odd whenever I noticed 3260 out on Sunday and a few times I did observe it on the 246.     I now see that 3430 is frequently on the 269.  I wonder if that is the route he picked this shakeup?  

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On 6/19/2019 at 5:59 PM, roamer said:

 

Interesting news about 3260 having transmission troubles.  3430 is the only 40' Phantom I've observed in service the last three days.   I wonder if that's now the coach that the Operator of the Year is driving?   In Metro's announcement last year of Operator of the Year (three of them tied, evidently), they mentioned that the operator out of Bellevue was working the 246 weekdays and 235 on Sundays  ...I thought it odd whenever I noticed 3260 out on Sunday and a few times I did observe it on the 246.     I now see that 3430 is frequently on the 269.  I wonder if that is the route he picked this shakeup?  

It appears the operator of the year is now driving 3430 ... its out today.

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On 6/22/2019 at 8:43 PM, northwesterner said:

It appears the operator of the year is now driving 3430 ... its out today.

I guess that seems to be true then.  It's also out today.  For anybody wanting to take a last ride, keep an eye on the 208 on Saturday and 235 on Sunday and we'll see if that's a pattern through the summer as my hunch is that this may be the last 40' Phantom in operation  ...unless they have a few others sitting at the base in case they might be needed in a pinch or possibly for parts.

 

 

 


eta:  For those looking for last rides on the Phantoms, 3430 also frequently shows up on the 269 and 221 routes during the weekdays.  In addition, it now appears that the only two routes that the 30' 1100s are regularly assigned appear to be the 236/238 and the 200 Issaquah shuttle.  The 236/238 have both 1100s and 3700s assigned.  The 200 shuttle will occasionally have 3700s on one or both the runs that operate mid-day but probably call for 1100s on the sign-out. 

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According to my data, only 3430 has been active recently. Here's a breakdown of its assignments:

  • Last 7 days
    • Weekdays: 48% of trips on 269, 33% of trips on 221, 15% of trips on 271, 3% of trips on 244
    • Saturday: 100% on 208
    • Sunday: 100% on 235
  • Last 14 days
    • Weekdays: 33% on 269, 29% on 221, 20% on 271, 12% on 245, remaining 7% on 234, 240, and 244
    • Saturdays: 100% on 208
    • Sundays: 100% on 235

Similar trends over the last 30 days as well, including exclusively serving 208 and 235 on Saturdays and Sundays respectively. This link will always show its position if it's in service.

I don't have much to add on the 1100s. Haven't logged a 3700 on the 200 since June 5. 

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20 hours ago, kona404 said:

According to my data, only 3430 has been active recently. Here's a breakdown of its assignments:

  • Last 7 days
    • Weekdays: 48% of trips on 269, 33% of trips on 221, 15% of trips on 271, 3% of trips on 244
    • Saturday: 100% on 208
    • Sunday: 100% on 235
  • Last 14 days
    • Weekdays: 33% on 269, 29% on 221, 20% on 271, 12% on 245, remaining 7% on 234, 240, and 244
    • Saturdays: 100% on 208
    • Sundays: 100% on 235

Similar trends over the last 30 days as well, including exclusively serving 208 and 235 on Saturdays and Sundays respectively. This link will always show its position if it's in service.

I don't have much to add on the 1100s. Haven't logged a 3700 on the 200 since June 5. 

My haphazard "logging" concurs with yours as I'm keeping a close eye on 3430.   It suggests that, in fact, it may be the Operators of the Year's coach as it appears he may have Thursday and Friday off* as 3430 the past couple of weeks has been solely assigned to trippers on Thursday and Friday and, from what I've been able to observe, on complete run series (out for more than 12 hrs) on the 269 on Mondays and Wednesdays and the 221 on Tuesday and as you point out, 208 on Saturday and 235 on Sunday.

I've not observed any other 40' Phantoms on the tracker for about two weeks now.

1100s are still regularly assigned to the 200 shuttle and the 236/238 with a few random assignments on short trippers here and there on what appears as a "use as needed" basis.   It seems like these fifteen:   1100, 1103, 1104, 1105, 1113, 1114, 1118, 1125, 1127, 1129, 1131, 1135, 1143, 1156, and 1187

 

(*or what was referred to in the old Seattle Transit days as "third in the block" ...although the "block system" was contractually done away with in late 1970s, Th/Fr off was the third block position in a pick..  When the union negotiated for "open pick" it did away with the old block system of picking)

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My comments above as they relate to my assumptions do not seem to be entirely consistent.  Therefore, instead of just guessing and surmising, I'll post each day what my observations are as they relate to the remaining Phantoms.  I'm doing this for my own curiosity but it may also help those who might be interested in taking last rides as we know their days are numbered. 

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According to my data, 3430 was last spotted on route 269 on July 10th. Looks like that could be the end.

Of the 1100s, only four seem to still be in service: 1104, 1114, 1127, 1187. A handful of others were also spotted prior to July 10th, but not since then.

Turning to the new Gilligs, the first 2019 delivery is now in service, 7440. It ran single trips on June 18 (on the 116, which is very interesting—wonder if someone entered the wrong trip/it was a test?), July 3, and July 8, and has been in regular service since July 11. 

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7440 is on the 271 route this PM (07/25/2019) 

The current pattern seems to be that new units first go into service at South Base and then a week or two later are moved to Bellevue.  That might explain why it was seen on the 116 route.  It evidently has been operating out of South for the past few weeks and is now at Bellevue?

It's interesting, however, that they are putting units from the 2nd batch into service before all the 7300s (and up to 7429) are in service.  Are there updates to the 2nd batch that are significant enough for them to test one of the units by putting it into service before all the first batch are running?

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16 hours ago, roamer said:

It's interesting, however, that they are putting units from the 2nd batch into service before all the 7300s (and up to 7429) are in service.  Are there updates to the 2nd batch that are significant enough for them to test one of the units by putting it into service before all the first batch are running?

Someone mentioned elsewhere (Facebook?) that the first batch had some issues which require parts to fix before they can enter service.  The issues were corrected at the factory in the second batch, so the second batch can go straight into service after acceptance.

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5 hours ago, Lavalamp said:

Someone mentioned elsewhere (Facebook?) that the first batch had some issues which require parts to fix before they can enter service.  The issues were corrected at the factory in the second batch, so the second batch can go straight into service after acceptance.

I don't know this person, but this matches what I was told on Twitter a few days ago:

Quote

The 2018 Gilligs came with broken or missing parts so they have to fix those before they can be put into service the 2019 ones have that issue corrected

 

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After almost one month of inactivity, coach 3430 was observed today on the tracker/OBA making a round trip in the afternoon on the 240 route.  

Since another wiki editor had "unofficially" declared the 40-foot Phantoms retired by moving the entire listing to the "retired section" of the KCM wiki listings, awhile ago I had taken the freedom of making the notation that 3430 had in fact been retired as it was last observed in service back on July 10th.  

Since I don't have inside information as some of you do, was this trip today some kind of a "celebration run" to commemorate the ending of 22+ years of service for the full-sized Phantoms?   Obviously, they are not short of buses to have made that trip at that time so I'm just guessing that perhaps there was some significance of running 3430 for maybe one last time?

 

Also, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank both Atomic Taco and Kona404 for their technical tools that are helping me track the last days of the Phantoms.  As I've previously stated, it's a nostalgic thing for me so I'm watching each day until they are in fact all through serving KCM.

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Well, to comment on my own question above, 3430 must not yet be retired.

It is running today, Saturday 10 August 2019, on the 208 route (Issaquah - North Bend  ...go HERE for OBA trip block listing)

 

 

My guess is that the operator of the year who chose that bus to drive may have been on vacation for the last four weeks or so (?).  There's no reason that they'd hold that coach for a month to do any type of repairs at this point, right?   I suppose the week ahead will tell a story as it pertains to seeing 3430 back on those routes discussed earlier.

 

The other oddity is that just "one" 1100 is being assigned daily to the 236/238 route during the week days.  There is no reasonable explanation for this that I can see.  A 40-footer could easily be assigned as they are on trippers on the 236/238.  Next shake up or at whatever point the Phantoms are gone for good, I can see them assigning 3700s to the route 200 and a mix of 3700s and 7200 or Gillig LFs to the 236/238.

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1 hour ago, roamer said:

 

My guess is that the operator of the year who chose that bus to drive may have been on vacation for the last four weeks or so (?).  There's no reason that they'd hold that coach for a month do do any type of repairs at this point, right?   I suppose the week ahead will tell a story as it pertains to seeing 3430 back on those routes discussed earlier.

Yeah, that's my assumption as well.

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Thanks for the confirmation, Taco.

I find the comment about  "needing to get all East Base operators trained on one coach" odd as East board operators are all trained on the 40' Phantoms used by ST.  Plus, they must be brand new operators as the Phantoms have been around for over 22 years so I would guess that most KCM operators have been trained on that bus at one time or another.

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6 hours ago, roamer said:

Thanks for the confirmation, Taco.

I find the comment about  "needing to get all East Base operators trained on one coach" odd as East board operators are all trained on the 40' Phantoms used by ST.  Plus, they must be brand new operators as the Phantoms have been around for over 22 years so I would guess that most KCM operators have been trained on that bus at one time or another.

For the last couple of years (since Central gave up their last Phantoms) the only operators qualified on 40ft Phantoms are those who pick Bellevue Base or East Base (for the ST units). 

Given half of the roster has a FT date of less than five years, there are potentially quite a few operators each shake up who need to be qualified. 

Of course, with just one coach ... the only concern is whether his relief is qualified or not. If not, they should just have the relief pull a different coach out of the base.

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40 minutes ago, northwesterner said:

 

Of course, with just one coach ... the only concern is whether his relief is qualified or not. If not, they should just have the relief pull a different coach out of the base.

That's the way I remember it decades ago  ...the Operator of the Year would take their chosen coach  out of the yard and go to the relief point and exchange passengers as would happen with a routine coach change; or if getting relieved could potentially take their chosen bus back to the barn, again, with a coach change being done at the relief point.  The latter would happen if, say, the relief operator didn't want to drive the coach the Operator of the Year had chosen (if of a different fleet model than what would normally be assigned, etc.).   In fact, when the program first started, I believe nobody else would be allowed to drive the coach and it was saved in the yard to exclusively be used by the Operator of the Year.

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2 hours ago, roamer said:

...the Operator of the Year would take their chosen coach  out of the yard and go to the relief point and exchange passengers as would happen with a routine coach change

That sounds incredibly inconvenient from a passenger's point of view

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14 hours ago, Atomic Taco said:

That sounds incredibly inconvenient from a passenger's point of view

True.  But you know, of the dozens and dozens of times through the years that I've asked passengers to change buses when a coach change was required (sometimes coach changes are requested by the shop as the coach is  scheduled for inspection, etc.) , I don't recall any passenger complaining to me about it or acting upset  ...but yes, definitely an inconvenience.

I'm sure management realized quickly that giving the Operator of the Year his/her exclusive use of their own coach where nobody else could drive it, was impractical.  This would have been especially true during times of equipment shortages. 

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@roamer @Atomic Taco 

At one point they were putting a decal on the side of the coach with the Operator of the Year's name. I have no idea if that driver's relief would keep the coach, or if it would go in with them as Roamer described. 

Here's a not that great busdude.com photo of coach 1138, brand new at the time, decaled for 1999 Operator of the Year Terry Christoe. 

1999-2000 Gillig C18A096N4 Phantom #1138

 

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It looks like bus 7247 has been running on the 65/67 the last few days. I wonder if North Base is going to get more eastside hand-me-downs... it seems like Bellevue Base isn't running very many 7200s these days, with most of them running out of South instead.

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On 8/25/2019 at 3:40 PM, jay8g said:

It looks like bus 7247 has been running on the 65/67 the last few days. I wonder if North Base is going to get more eastside hand-me-downs... it seems like Bellevue Base isn't running very many 7200s these days, with most of them running out of South instead.

Yes, 7247 has been operating out of North for quite awhile now.   I've been keeping an eye on the 7200s for the past few weeks and updating the Wiki each day and you are correct, recently South has been steadily adding 7200s coming from Bellevue to their fleet as Bellevue continues to increase their 7300/7400s.   I too keep wondering if we'll see additional 7200s at North.  I suspect so at some point.

Currently, Bellevue now has less than a dozen 7200s when they once had them all.   Bellevue has 8 (eight) 7200s as of 09/03/2019  ...7217, 7219, 7226, 7228, 7229, 7232, 7235, and 7236

Didn't somebody report once that the plan was for Bellevue to have just Gillig LFs and Proterras?  I thought that strange at the time but it appears that's where things are headed if the current trend continues.  Actually, it makes some sense from a standpoint of parts inventory, as has been discussed previously, as in that scenario Bellevue only needs to keep parts for the Gillig LFs and Proterras.  

Wasn't there a post further back, that I believe was posted by a Metro employee, that had the tentative base assignments going into 2020 range?   I'll search for it when I have the time.  

Currently, Bellevue has a small number of 3700s that are used almost exclusively on the 236/238 (236/238/248 on weekends and occasionally the 249 on the weekends).  The only other Bellevue route that does not use 40-footers is the 200 Issaquah shuttle.  Wasn't there talk that the Issaquah shuttle will eventually be contracted to a private operator? 

 

 

 

 

Plus, as you can see in my post above which I update daily, the only Phantoms left in service are 3430, and the following four 30-footers 1104, 1114, 1127, and 1187.   Two 1100s are used on the Issaquah shuttle and one is usually used on the 236/238, with one spare.  I still don't understand why just one is being used on the 236/238.  Does anybody know? 

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