Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Newer Rides, Older Joints

Well the verdict has been in for quite a while on the "new" Gillig buses. Many of them have 100,000 miles or more, and most bus operators would much rather drive the older New Flyers.

Somewhere along the line, a design team decided to add a few feet to the front of the bus. This added more vision barriers. We already have to "rock and roll" in the seat to make sure we don't miss someone, but with several more barriers to scan around, it's more like "bob and weave while dancing to a Michael Jackson tune" on the new buses. Doing this activity is actually dangerous in itself, because we're not stable while moving around in the seat so much.

In addition to the added vision barriers, the driver's seat is still uncomfortable. If you're over six feet tall, the edge of the seat cuts off circulation just above the knees. The adjustable pedals is a nice touch, but on some models the turn signals are too close, making it so you have to actually move your foot onto the turn signal rather than pivot the heels.

The kneeler control is on the dash on many models, requiring the operator to lean forward in the seat to lower the bus. On a typical route, we can kneel and raise the bus hundreds of times a day. Drivers are suffering from repetitive motion injuries, because it's quite a reach even when you're a long-armed monkey like me. If you're shorter of stature, it's more than just a reach. The newest Gilligs have the kneeler and mobility device ramp controls combined with the door opening lever. This is much more ergonomically-correct for the operators.

We're supposed to be impressed with drop-down chains for the maybe once-a-winter snowfall in Portland. However, one driver said he had to crawl over a curb and it broke the chains. Show me a driver who has never driven over a curb, and I'll show you a true service animal: they're both pretty rare.

Another thing I've noticed about the newer buses is the back door opens differently. Instead of pushing when we activate the door, passengers are supposed to just touch it. Since few of them bother to read Signs on the Bus, sometimes they slam through the doors. Problem is, these newer buses don't like a heavy hand, and they tend to slam shut on the unsuspecting illiterates without warning. This earns us angry glares as the boneheads walk past after de-boarding, as if it's our fault they can't bother to read simple instructions.

There are some good things about these newer buses. They burn cleaner and have more fuel-efficient engines, leaving a smaller carbon footprint. When you add the fact that most riders on the bus have left their car at home, riding a cleaner-burning bus is an even greener way to go. The route signs are easier to see, because they're larger and have bigger letters/numbers. Also, curb lights come on when we activate turn signals, making it easier to see our way around tight corners.

So next time we order buses, let's have flat-faced New Flyers that incorporate the operator-friendly features, rather than the ugly new Gilligs with fat noses and too many blind spots. But hey, I'm just a bus driver... what do I know?


  1. So here's the thing, we're all participants in this bus deal. If we choose to participate in a flawed system and operate these buses under the impression that we simply have no say in the matter then shit is going to spiral out of control fast. I burst out laughing in a dead silent house at the service animal comment, and I appreciated the contrast of preference based off of operator size and stature. I called in a broken seat thinking there was something wrong with suspension and dispatch straight up acknowledged the disadvantage smaller framed operators have with the seat belts and seat angle. She said there was nothing she could do and apologized. I continued driving. What about the most dangerous aspect of all in regards to the extra length in the front, the glare of another cars headlights and the immediate knee jerk reaction to pull the wheel away from the danger. What happens when there's a bike in the blind spot of our knee jerk reaction? Who's to blame then? We need to rally.

  2. We do not have a choice in the buses we drive. New Flyer wants nothing to do with us after 2010. Gillig was the only company that bid for our bus buy. We can't take a stand because the union took away our right to strike and Trimet can fire those who try to organize one. You can write up each bus and be known as a complainer/problem person. We are stuck with these buses for the next 15 years. Like George Carlin once said....you may think you have a choice but you don't. It's their club and you ain't in it! Great read Deacon!

    1. Agreed. We are hampered by the lack of a single, unified voice and management that thinks it knows better than those who roll the six wheels.

  3. Keep on writing brother ! Your blog keeps getting better and better!

  4. Deacon- The Gillig web site shows two versions of the current low floor. One has a standard front not that much different than the New Flyer front. The other is the Trimet steamlined front which I'm sure reduces drag at speeds of 85 mph and up. So it appears that they didn't have to go all Star Trekky; somebody just loved the futuristic look. (Somebody who wouldn't be sitting daily in the driver's seat!)

    And you know- they probably paid more per bus for this "feature".

  5. Thanks for your input Nedwell! Long time no hear thought I lost you!