This past week a new face has presented itself on the so-called Fast Bus 307. It is the face of an MCI D4500 Commuter Cruiser. That's right the buses that normally see service on such routes as the Utah Counter Commuters, the 472, etc is now on the 307. While the seats are pretty comfortable here is some reason why this is a bad idea from an agency that we have come to aspect bad ideas from.
First of all the bus is not geared for city driving. The gearing on this bus is designed for primarily freeway speeds and short trips on surface streets. The only place where the bus gets to strut it's stuff on the 307 is from 4500 South to 6200 South. Otherwise you are dealing with stop and go traffic that is doing long term damage to the transmission and engine on the bus.
Second, the bus is not designed for frequent stops. You have 4 steep steps that you enter the bus with and there is no back door. In addition the bus has wider seats than a standard transit bus so the aisle way is narrower than a standard transit bus. Despite UTA' s best attempts to kill all local ridership on this route, the line is carrying the local riders that used to ride the 27, 32, and the 44. So in other words there is people frequently trying to get off and on and this bus wasn't designed for it.
Third, the wheelchair lift on the bus is not designed for regular transit use. To load and unload a wheelchair on this bus takes more time than on a standard bus (and significantly longer than a low-floor bus), so the bus is greatly slowed down by wheelchairs. It's like UTA is telling wheelchair customers that they are not wanted on the fast buses because their too much trouble.
Fourth, the bus is 5 feet longer than a standard 40-foot bus. There is a couple of turns along this route is difficult for a 40-foot bus so making a 45-foot foot bus try to make the turns is much worse. In addition the commuter cruisers are taller and have a higher center of gravity than a standard transit bus so it makes the turns all the more difficult.
UTA putting the commuter cruiser on the route is kind of like the UTA throwing the riders of the route a bone for the deep cuts that took place on the route and trying to rebuild the ridership. The problem is a commuter cruiser is not designed for the route.
If UTA wants to put a nicer bus on this route and the other so-called fast buses, it needs to start purchasing Suburban Buses again. Suburban buses are a cross between a regular bus and a commuter cruiser. UTA used to have a large number of these type buses but they were replaced by the MCI D4500's. You would often see them on service on such routes as the 811. They are a standard transit bus but have have raised seating, luggage racks, reading lights, just to set them apart from a standard bus.
I hope the riders on the 307 enjoy their bone while it lasts...