Modern, fuel-efficient bus hits Penticton roads for trial run

Penticton residents will see a new type of bus on the streets starting next week, as part of a five-week trial to determine community support and performance of BC Transit's demonstration vehicle, Vicinity bus.

"I encourage all Penticton residents to take a ride on the new bus while it's in operation over this trial period," says Mayor Dan Ashton. "We're excited at the potential of having what appears to be a more cost effective, environmentally-friendly bus in our city, but want to ensure that all relevant factors are being taken into consideration."

The Vicinity is a European-inspired community bus that seats 23 passengers, with standing room for 16 more. This new bus model is 8.4 metres long (compared to the standard buses 12 metre buses) and better suited to community routes.

"The Vicinity has all the attributes of a larger conventional bus, but its compact size makes it more versatile to better serve various neighbourhoods and communities," said Manuel Achadinha, President and CEO of BC Transit.

The Canadian-designed low-floor bus is sleek inside and out, creating a spacious feel on-board. It includes a ramp at the front door with kneeling capabilities. The bus does, however, contain one less mobility aid station, the impact of which Penticton staff will be monitoring in order to adjust accordingly. BC Transit has indicated that future versions of the Vicinity can be outfitted with two mobility aid stations rather than the current one.

The Vicinity shows promise in offering initial capital cost savings couple with long term operating cost savings from increase fuel efficiency, lower maintenance costs and increased service life.

During the trial period, information related to impacts on passengers, fuel efficiency and ease of maintenance will be gathered through surveys from drivers, maintenance staff and customers to determine whether the Vicinity is suited for the Penticton environment.

Test results in other communities have shown substantial long-term cost savings. Drivers have commented that the bus offers improved visibility and is easier to drive, while customers have noticed a smoother ride, due to the computerized air-ride suspension.