PVTA introduces ‘bendy-buses’

By Megan Cangemi

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Brett Reardon/Daily Collegian

On a busy weekday during the semester, or even on a cool fall night, it can be difficult to squeeze into a bus already crammed with passengers at the University of Massachusetts.

The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority understands these qualms, however, and has provided a solution for the Amherst area.

The “bendy-buses,” officially called articulated buses, which have been seen roaming around campus lately, are the PVTA’s newest vehicular launch. The unique bus model, which resembles two buses joined together by an accordion-looking pivot, made its UMass debut on Sept. 5 at the Haigis Mall.

“It really feels like riding a train,” UMass Transportation Services Operations Director Glenn Barrington said in a UMass press release.

The buses are 60 feet long, can hold up to 120 passengers and were introduced to increase capacity, according to the release. In the past, the North Amherst to Old Belchertown Road No. 30 bus route was frequently reported to have major congestion at some busier stops.

But with these new “bendy-buses” and their increased passenger capacity, PVTA hopes to combat the imminent risk of leaving someone behind at a bus stop. “You never want to leave anyone standing at a bus stop,” UMass director of transportation services Jeri Baker said in the release. Students who take classes at other colleges often rely on the efficiency and reliability of public transport.

As for gas efficiency, the new bus model’s environmental footprint is significantly smaller than the footprints of several smaller buses that would be required to meet the same demand.

Not only do these new buses limit the number of vehicles driving around campus, but they have also been engineered to be hybrid-electric powered, which gives them roughly a 25 percent boost in gas mileage over diesel, according to the release. These new hybrid articulated buses are part of the “Green PVTA Vision.”

There is a certification course required to drive the new articulated buses and prospective drivers are required to undergo 15 three-hour training sessions in order to obtain their commercial licenses, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

“It’s a quick learning curve,” Barrington said of learning how to drive the buses. Due to their careful engineering, they turn with ease and the back tires are contrived to follow the lead tires.

The new “bendy-buses” have been in the works for four years, according to the release, as the PVTA had unsuccessfully applied for several demonstration grants.       The passage of a state transportation financing bill granted the PVTA permission to purchase four articulated buses from New Flyer, a company based in Winnipeg for an estimated $4 million. Eighty percent of that cost, according to the release, was paid by Federal Transit Administration, while the rest of it was funded by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Megan Cangemi can be reached at [email protected]