Page last updated on 11/23/15.
Added the 2002 40-foot Gilligs.
Here is where you can find more information on the various buses that no longer run on the HART system. HART has had various makes and models run on the system throughout the years, with a few models being the mainstay of the fleet. Unlike my old website, where I had each type of bus categorized into their own pages, I’ve listed all of HART’s retired buses on one page to make website navigation easier for my viewers. Please note that some photos shown in this portal are NOT of HART buses, rather they are public domain photos that I use simply to show what kind of bus they are. I appreciate any contributions!
Below are the types of buses that I will cover on this page.
GM New Look
Flxible New Look
Flxible Metro (and the Grumman 870)
Blue Bird Coaches
Optima American Heritage Trolley
Retired Gilligs (Phantom and Low Floor models)
The GM New Look
Even before HART began, the City of Tampa already had a municipal bus service. Its initial fleet comprised of 19 GM New Look buses. 3 more of these buses were operated by the State of Florida as a shuttle experiment between Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. The ID #s for the 19 original New Look buses are not known, but the three that were used for the cross-county shuttle service were 246, 247, and 248.
The unique thing about the GM New Look was the one-piece windshield, which gave the bus the nickname “Fishbowl”. Otherwise, the bus’s overall appearance was similar to that of the Flxible New Look.
See a video of a GM New Look bus in action in Toronto (link will open in a new window) – Note: Most of these buses have been retired in favor of newer Orion and Novabus models.
The Flxible New Look
In addition to the GM New Look fleet, there were 59 Flxible New Look buses. Their ID#s were 121 – 154, and 221 – 245. Several buses were never used however. The Flxible New Look buses were among two major bus types to roll out during the 1960s and 1970s. The other bus was the GM New Look bus.
HART utilized the Flxible New Look fleet of buses until the late 1980s or early 1990s, when GMC RTS and Flxible Metro buses began to take hold in the system. Production of the New Look ended in 1995, with nearly all of the transit agencies that used them, having retired them.
The Flxible Metro (and the ill-fated Grumman 870)
During the 1980s, Flxible came out with another transit bus called the Grumman 870. This bus was manufactured during the time that Flxible was owned by Grumann Corp and was supposed to rival the GMC RTS bus. Even though the bus turned out to be an initial success, its major design flaws quickly became apparent. The A-frame design of the bus was not able to withstand wear and tear from roadways that had numerous potholes. This forced Grumman to take numerous buses in New York City off the roads and make costly repairs to them. In all, 2,656 buses nationwide had to be repaired at a cost of $7 million dollars. These flaws eventually caused the demise of Flxible in the 1990s (Source: Wikipedia).
The Flxible Metro (pictured above) was an effort by Flxible in the 1980s to shore itself up after the Grumman 870 “disaster”. Although it looks like the original 870, the design was much sturdier and more reliable. HART utilized several A and B type fleets of these buses, both in 35 foot and 40 foot models until the late 1990s, when they were replaced by Gillig models. Until 2011, you could still see elements of the Flxible Metro on older “HARTline” bus stop shields, as well as on the HART Transit Guide, where the bus was used on the compass.
HART had forty 40-foot 1982-model Grumann 870 buses, with ID#s 111, 112, 215 – 219, and 271 – 309, and several models of Flxible Metro buses. The Flxible Metros were ordered in 1983 through 1985 in both 35 and 40-foot models, with ID#s 113 – 115, 171 – 199, 351 – 379, 311 – 319, 321 – 326, and 341 – 346. HART ordered another batch of 40-foot Metro buses in 1988, with ID#s 121 through 140.
GMC RTS (Rapid Transit Series)
The GMC RTS buses were produced in 1977 to compete with the Grumman 870 and later the Flxible Metro. The RTS bus was noted for its curved body and window panels and retained a futuristic yet contemporary look compared to other transit buses. When GMC discontinued production of the RTS, it sold its design and patent rights to Transportation Manufacturing Corporation (TMC), which later sold production to Novabus, and then Millenium Transit Services (MTS). MTS ceased production of the modern RTS models in 2009 and exited the market. However, in 2011, MTS re-entered the market in hopes of giving transit districts another chance at using the RTS model bus. Both high and low-floor variants are slated to be produced (source: Wikipedia).
Before GMC ended production of the RTS bus, HART had several 35 and 40 foot models in their stock, with ID#s 249 – 269 (35 foot) and 221 – 235, 401 – 420 (40 foot). These buses were used on a variety of routes, but most notably to my understanding, the Route 30, which today transports passengers between downtown Tampa and Town-N-Country via Tampa International Airport. HART began retiring these buses in the late 1990s and early 2000s in favor of Gillig models.
Blue Bird Coaches
At one time, HART had several other bus types in its fleet, some of which were Blue Bird Body Company buses. HART utilized four of these, which had ID#s 551 – 555. Today, smaller transit districts such as Pasco County Public Transportation (PCPT) and the USF Tampa Campus Bull Runner System use both high and low-floor variants of Blue Bird Body Co. buses. Some of which have been acquired from other transit districts through vehicle auctions.
Optima American Heritage Trolley
There were several other trolley bus types that were used on the HART system in years past. The most recent, before the purchase of the Gillig trolleys, was a fleet of Optima American Heritage Streetcar replicas (ID#s 801 & 802, and 920 to 9XX, I’m not sure exactly how many of these trolleys ran). Those buses ran the In-Town Trolley system from the late 1990s until the mid 2000s. Like the current Gillig trolleys, the Optima buses were also painted in yellow. The only difference was that the In-Town Trolley system was then known as the Uptown-Downtown Connector, and the fare was 50 cents. HART changed the name of the trolley system in around 2004 or 2005 as the agency began to transition from the old “HARTline” era. In 2007, the fare was reduced to 25 cents to try and bring in more riders. In 2015, the yellow trolley scheme came to an end as part of a second re-branding of the system to the In-Towner.
The Optima streetcar buses were also used on the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s Suncoast Beach Trolley, as well as Manatee County Area Transit’s Longboat Key Trolley, but were replaced by the Gillig trolleys.
HART purchased twelve 27-foot Champion/Freightliner T-300 buses in 2008 to serve as an interim fleet while the Gillig fleet was repainted in the current blue/white livery. These buses were purchased from Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and were used on lower-capacity routes such as the now-defunct neighborhood connectors and Routes 41 and 57. I found it very interesting that HART kept DART’s 5200 and 5400 unit numbers intact on all twelve of these buses.
Despite two major drawbacks; 1) being a high-floor bus, and 2) having only one exit/entry door, these buses served both DART and HART very well. They make wonderful shuttle buses for smaller transit districts and private charter companies! In 2010/2011, these buses were phased out in favor of the 2010-series Gillig Low Floor buses.
In this sub-section, I will profile the Gillig Phantom and any Gillig Low Floor models that have been retired. HART retired its 1996 and 1997-series Phantoms in 2009, and the 1999 and 2000-series low floors were retired between 2011 and 2013. From 2013 through now, the 2001-series low floors and some of the 2002-series low floors have been retired.
Just the name sounds haunting don’t it? HART purchased two different fleets of Gillig Phantom buses back in 1996 and 1997 respectively. They included ten 30-foot models (ID#s 601 – 610) and twenty seven 35-foot models (ID#s 701 – 727). In 2007, the authority began phasing out all but three of the 30-foot models. The remaining models (#s 602, 608, & 609) continued to run on lower frequency routes. HART began phasing out the remaining 30 and 35 foot models in August 2009, with the final nine (703, 708, 711, 713, 717, 720, 723, 725, and 726) being retired in late September. HART actually managed to run these nine buses until the very last day of service (September 29), utilizing Routes 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 18, 19, 30, 32, 36, 41, & 89.
The Phantoms were manufactured by Gillig Corporation, based out of Hayward, CA and began to roll out in late 1980. With the exception of a small number of buses built in a 3-year long joint venture with Neoplan from 1977 to 1979, the Phantom was Gillig’s first public transit bus. The first Phantoms were 35 feet long and 96 inches wide, however 30 and 40-foot models were offered beginning in 1981, and 102-inch wide models became available in 1983. A liquefied natural gas fueled version was produced beginning in 1992, and was later discontinued. A diesel-electric hybrid powered version was produced beginning in 1996, but was discontinued in 2006. In its latter years of production only the 102-inch wide version was available due to stricter emissions and accessibility requirements. Production of the Phantom ended in 2008 (likely due to a lack of orders & many transit agencies favoring low floor buses), and Gillig now only produces low-floor buses, which is the rest of the HART fleet, as well as staple in other mass transit agencies.
Lets visit the Phantom…
I can happily say three of the former HART Phantoms, #s 605, 608, and 609, are now being used as employee shuttles for Moffitt Cancer Center, operated by Escot Bus Lines. These buses were refurbished before being put back on the road and seem to be running very nicely around the USF area!
The 1999-series Gillig Low Floor was HART’s first low floor bus fleet. The agency ordered seventeen 35-foot buses (numbered 901 through 917) equipped with similar plush seating to their Phantom counterparts. These, along with the 2000-series low floors, were the last two fleets to posses Flip Dot destination displays. In 2008, these buses were painted in the current livery and were originally slated to be extensively refurbished. Some buses received interior refreshes due to seating cushions needing replacement. HART was not able to refurbish all of them due to budgetary constraints.
In 2012, HART began to gradually retire these buses due to their condition and high cost of maintenance, as well as the failure of the 2010 transit referendum. At this time, no replacement fleet is planned for the 1999-series buses, resulting in the total fleet being decreased from 202 buses to 175 buses. HART is now focusing on gradually replacing the oldest buses with newer Compressed Natural Gas-powered buses and maintain a transit bus fleet count of 175 to 180 until funds are available to build a secondary facility in northern Tampa.
Despite the model year, the seventeen 30-foot 2000-series Gillig Low Floor buses were retired before the 1999 fleet was. Like their older siblings, these buses featured Flip Dot destination signs and plush interiors. They were also originally slated to be extensively refurbished, but were forced into retirement in 2011 due to the failure of the 2010 transit referendum. The 2010-series Gilligs replaced this fleet as a result. There are two exceptions however; #s 2005 and 2015, which were not retired until 2012 due to lower mileage readings. This was in-turn due to both buses needing to be rebuilt after being involved in separate accidents.
#s 2005 and 2015, as I mentioned earlier, were the two 2000-series buses that had a lot of downtime due to their involvement in separate accidents. They were not eligible for retirement until sometime in late 2011, though they were kept until sometime in early 2012. Their replacements are #s 1215 and 1216, both 40-foot Gillig Low Floor buses, which were delivered after the fourteen 2012-series buses for MetroRapid.
Twenty three 40-foot 2001-series Gillig Low Floors are the latest to grace this page. A partial retirement process began in 2013/14 as newer 2013 models began to roll in, and buses were retired based on their condition. In March of 2015, the retirement process began for the remainder of the fleet (except 2106), as well as some 2002-series Low Floors that were also reaching the ends of their useful lives. These buses were similar to their 1999 counterparts, but with all-bucket seating and Twin Vision LED destination signs. These buses were also the first among four generations of Low Floors within HART to be equipped with Voith transmissions, not to mention that they were HART’s first 40-foot Low Floor bus.
As of fall 2015, nine out of ten 2002-series 40-foot Gilligs (2201 through 2209) were quietly replaced by the 2015-series 40-footers. The seating layout of these buses are very similar to the 2001-series buses in the sense that they have sideways-facing seats in the front and rear of the bus, but the arrangement of the windows and positioning of the rear exit door are different.
Here’s #2210 at the MTC. It was later repainted in the new colors. Photo Credit: Shawn B.
#2202 in the new colors on the Route 5. Photo taken by HARTride 2012. February, 2010. Released into the Public Domain (used on Wikipedia).
#2205 prepares to pull out of Britton Plaza. Photo Credit: HARTride 2012. June, 2014.