HART unveils first MetroRapid bus!

Checking into my social media accounts this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the first MetroRapid bus has rolled into town! Yes, you heard me right, HART’s new MetroRapid buses have begun their cross-country trek from California to Tampa, with the first one arriving yesterday! You can view a Twitter photo of the bus from HART’s Twitter Feed. They also have posted the news on their Facebook Page.

I’m very much surprised by the release of the new buses. I did not actually think that the new MetroRapid buses would begin rolling out until maybe January, 2013 at the earliest. However, since construction of the MetroRapid system is moving along rather quickly, I guess it is better for HART to have the buses ready to roll by the time the system opens (after all, the buses have to be driven around Tampa so that drivers are accustomed to the new buses and any bugs are worked out).

My understanding is that the new buses are very similar to that of the 29XX and 10XX buses that HART added to their fleet in 2009 and 2010 respectively. However, the rear end of the bus has a similar styling to that of the 25XX buses. The interiors sport the same seating configuration as the 29XX and 10XX buses, but the color scheme is that of white, gray, and green tones to match the MetroRapid livery. It is also my understanding that HART will have 12 of these buses on the road when the first segment of the MetroRapid system opens in 2013 (I previously had mentioned 15, but because HART later decided to reduce frequency of the route from 10 minute peak headways/15 minute non-peak headways to 15 minute peak/20 minute non-peak, the number of buses to be purchased for the route was reduced to 12). The buses are manufactured by Gillig Corporation, based in Hayward, California (yes, that’s why they make that cross-country trip).

I hope to have more info on this up soon! 😀

Warmest Regards,

HARTride 2012.

6 Replies to “HART unveils first MetroRapid bus!”

  1. When I first saw the concept photo of a MetroRapid bus on the HART website, I thought something was wrong with it. I’d never seen a standard Gillig Low-Floor unit sold with the tail and rear roof fairing from a Gillig BRT unit. Turns out that’s how HART bought them. I’m a bit dissapointed that they didn’t just go for the full BRT option, but I do like how they gave the buses a distintive livery that still ties in with the rest of the fleet.

    A couple other things. The number of units for MetroRapid North-South is actually 12, not 15. (East-West will also get 12 per the current plan, but for both lines it would’ve been 17 each if HART had went with a 10-min peak/15-min off-peak headway for the routes. Though the North-South line won’t begin until next year, the buses are going to be labelled as 1201-1212.

  2. Zac, I was surprised about the exterior styling of the bus as well. But I understand that many transit agencies nowadays are no longer opting for the sleek BRT style buses because of cost savings provided by supplying standard parts for all buses on the fleet. Thus, Gillig has made the BRT style front optional on all of its newer buses. In fact, the Pittsburgh Port Authority (Pittsburgh, PA) opted for the same look on its newest fleet of buses as well, as I understand.

    I had nearly forgotten that HART reduced the frequency of MetroRapid service prior to the finalization of the project plans. This was due to budget cuts that were enacted due to the failure of the 2010 penny tax referendum and state-mandated budget cuts across the board when Governor Scott was elected. For HART to be able to maintain basic service for all of Hillsborough County transit, while at the same time, providing optimal service for MetroRapid, the frequency had to be slightly reduced.

    1. That’s very true. I heard that argument many times from Ben Franklin Transit (Tri-Cities WA) when I was living there. I think that argument has also been used by HART as the reason that no more hybrids have been added to the fleet. While Pittsburgh PAT has standardized their Gillig fleet, it’s important to note that they’re not 100% Gillig, as they have New Flyer and Neoplan units as well.

      I’ve never been a big fan of calling 15-min headways “frequent,” but given the current resources HART has available, I can accept it. Being optimistic, I can hope that one day the frequency will be bumped up to 10-min headways all day (or even 5/7.5-min), and then in the future the MetroRapid treatment will be given to more routes than currently planned, i.e. the 7 (DT-HCC), 12, 19, 39, and a new route from Brandon to the USF area.

      1. Great points Zac. Until 2010, PSTA’s bus fleet was also not 100% Gillig buses. They had a fleet of 30, 35, and 40 foot New Flyer buses. Many were never changed over to PSTA’s current livery because they had reached the end of their useful lives, were retired from service, and auctioned off. In fact, most of their New Flyer fleet was retired prior to 2009. But I believe there were some 40 foot New Flyer Low Floors that were repainted and remained in the fleet until the hybrid BRT buses rolled in during the course of 2010.

        PSTA also at one time had Optima trolley buses, which were used for the downtown and beachside trolley services. Many of those buses have either been retired from service or loaned to the City of St. Petersburg. Before that, the trolley fleet was supplied by Boyertown, Chance Coach, and Cable Car Concepts respectively.

        At some point going into 2013, I plan to create a post that goes more in-depth into the past bus fleets of both HART and PSTA.

        As far as the headways are concerned, I am also confident that MetroRapid service frequency will increase. I also heard that HART is not rulling out the possibility of adding articulated 60 foot buses to the MetroRapid fleet. However, this will be dependent on funding (which at the current time, HART does not have). On a positive note though, I suspect that if everything goes well with the North-South line and the East-West line gets built, we could see articulated buses hit the road by 2016.

        In fact, during the early planning stages of MetroRapid, HART was considering using 60 foot NABI articulated buses for the system. However, the costs of purchasing the buses were too high and the state was already cutting funding for various entities during the course of 2007, which in-turn was caused by falling property tax revenue. Then of course, the economy crashed in 2008 and HART had to indefinitely postpone plans for articulated buses and revisit plans for MetroRapid. Despite the economic downturn, I am very glad that HART was still able to continue the push for BRT. At one point, I seriously thought that MetroRapid would be postponed indefinitely.

        With that said, HART opted in the meantime to start the MetroRapid system with Gillig Low Floor buses. Originally, the plan was to go for the BRT style. However, as you mentioned, they later changed that due to costs. But again, I do hear that the possibility of HART adding articulated buses is not being ruled out entirely. At one point recently, I heard that the relatively new Novabus LFX 60 foot articulated bus was being considered as a possible candidate for MetroRapid service expansion. Again though, it all depends on funding.

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