The NovaBus RTS

Nova 7213

Text by James Bow

See also:

Going Modern

The Rapid Transit Series (RTS) transit buses have been originally manufactured by General Motors (the last generation of that company’s long bus heritage) during 1977, in Pontiac, Michigan, and is currently produced by Millennium Transit Services as the RTS Legend. The bus traces back as the descendant of GMC’s entry for the Transbus project which in turn was the descendant of the RTX (Rapid Transit Experimental), an experimental model for which a prototype produced in 1968 with notes of its production dating to early as 1964. Both the RTX and the Transbus were similar in terms of design to the RTS though had major differences in having a less-rounded body design, a one-step entryway, and (in the case of the Transbus) a 45-foot (13.72 m) length.

Wanting a backup plan in the case that the Transbus project was abandoned, GMC decided to modify the RTX/Transbus design and in 1970 began the project that became the earliest RTS with the first prototype being assembled in 1973 at which point the project went onto hiatus [1]. Though closer to its predecessors than the production models, the RTS name debuted with this prototype. After the project was revived in 1974, GMC would later withdraw from the Transbus project and focus their energies on the RTS.

The bus has described for its then futuristic styling featuring automobile-like curved body and window panels. That design has become a classic, though remains more contemporary as that of its predecessor, the GMC New Look which had a curved windshield, but flat side glass and body panels. Most current buses are now made by specialized coach manufacturers with flat sides and windows.

Abroad, Daewoo Bus has been using the same chassis of a RTS and body from 1985-1997. This relationship with a RTS shows on Daewoo’s catalog for Royal Express Bus written that the bus is GMC’s export version and claims it can guarantee safety and reliability. Daewoo has built the body into High-Decker (Royal) configuration and Standard-Decker (Royal Express) configuration and used engine licensed from MAN. a big similarity with the RTS is the Isuzu Super Cruiser however it is unclear whether Isuzu used RTS chassis or not.

Entry to Canada

Like the American counterparts, GMDD (GMC’s Canadian production arm) considered producing the RTS for the Canadian market. However, an outcry of protest from key transit providers over not wanting the “futuristic” RTS design led GMDD to produce the Classic, an updated New Look that was first produced in 1983. The Classic would prove popular with US agencies as well.

Upon discontinuation of the Classic in 1996, Nova Bus decided to begin limited production of the RTS for the Canadian market. Produced from 1997 to 2001, most of the RTS models made for Canadian agencies were the RTS-06 WFD variant with the majority being sold to agencies in the eastern part of the country.

Quebec-based Dupont Trolley Industries, specializing in rebuilding buses, previously offered a rebuilt RTS as the Victoria with several styling changes. These buses are fairly uncommon, with most examples found in the fleets of transit operators in MontrĂ©al’s suburbs (CIT Roussillon, Sainte-Julie public transit, CIT Chambly-Richelieu-Carignan).

The RTS enters Toronto

In November 1997, the TTC tested RTS bus number 1000 which was built to New York City Transit Authority standards as built in 1995. This bus was on loan from Nova for demonstration purposes. The TTC was pleased with the performance and the stainless steal frame on this bus, and it placed an order for 52 of the RTS series buses.

The first production RTS bus, #7200, arrived on TTC property in the beginning of July 1998, a few days before bus #1000 left the property (later sold and scrapped eventually). Bus #7200, like the models that followed, featured a rear wheelchair lift, air conditioning and wider front doors. The buses were initially equipped with the Luminator MAX2000 flip-dot destination display, although buses #7210 and 7236 were retrofitted in early 2012 to use the Luminator Horizon, which used backlit LEDs for a crisper and easier-to-read display.

The Nova RTS buses are numbered 7200-7251 and were initially operated out of the Danforth Garage. In June 2005, they have been moved to Arrow Road Garage and, as of April 2013, they can be found on routes served by this garage, including 96 WILSON, 35 JANE and 37 ISLINGTON. As of April 2013, all are currently operational.

NovaBus RTS Specifications

  • Numbers: 7200-7251
  • Engine: Detroit Diesel Series 50 275 hp @ 2100 rpm
  • Transmission: Allison VR731RH 3 speed
  • Seating: 39 passengers

Nova RTS Image Archive


Thanks to Mike Vainchtein for his updates and additions to this web page

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