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TTC orders low-floor bus fleet grounded

They can’t easily handle rush-hour loads

By Paul Moloney
Toronto Star City Hall Bureau
Tuesday September 22, 1998

The TTC’s test fleet of 50 low-floor, accessible buses has been grounded over concerns the vehicles can’t take the weight of rush-hour passenger loads.

The buses were taken off the road late Friday after data from the manufacturer indicated capacity shouldn’t exceed 54 passengers, TTC spokesperson Lynn Hilborn said yesterday.

The Orion VI buses, which were being used on the Dufferin St. route, had each been carrying up to 66 passengers during rush hour, Hilborn said.

The Toronto Transit Commission discovered late last week the vehicles were being overloaded, after reviewing engineering data with Mississauga-based Orion Bus Industries, he said.

“The realization came that (capacity) was 54 people. We then had a meeting with Orion right away and it was confirmed, so we took them out of service the next rush hour.”

The $450,000 natural-gas-powered Orion model, which has been in full service on Dufferin since June 1, can carry 28 people seated and 26 standing for a total of 54 passengers.

A concern is that overloading the buses could lead to failure of the rear wheel rims or rear tire blowouts, he said.

City councillors who make up the commission are to be briefed tomorrow.

Orion wouldn’t comment.

“This is an issue strictly between the TTC and Orion,” said company vice-president Paul Royal.

“I don’t want to have an issue in the press with the TTC.”

Changes may be possible to raise the capacity of the buses, which accommodate disabled people and ease boarding for seniors and others with reduced mobility, said Councillor Blake Kinahan, a TTC commissioner.

“It’s new technology, and new technology often has a few wrinkles and bumps along the way,” Kinahan said.

The TTC has organized a meeting in Toronto next month of major transit systems - representing half the market for transit buses - to discuss design issues.

The idea is to develop a set of standards for a durable low-floor bus with low operating costs, and pressure the manufacturers to deliver, TTC chief general manager David Gunn has said.

The TTC doesn’t believe there’s a way of blocking off parts of the bus to ensure no more than 54 people get on, Hilborn said.

“You can’t put a cordon up to block people because they have to get by to get off at the rear door.”

The TTC has essentially ruled out as impractical the idea of requiring bus drivers to count heads to control passenger loads. However, staff are studying whether the buses can be deployed on less busy routes, he said.

Another option is to see whether the bus can be upgraded to carry more people. The TTC has never had a capacity problem with its conventional diesel buses, which can handle more than 80 passengers, said TTC corporate secretary Vince Rodo.

“I think it’s fair to say that any other bus we’ve ever had, you could jam all the people you wanted on it,” Rodo said. The TTC is taking delivery of another 50 low-floor buses next year from another manufacturer, Winnipeg’s New Flyer Industries, which says its model has a capacity similar to conventional buses.