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Davis, California

Saturday, October 16, 2021

New double deck Unitrans buses pull in to campus

Unitrans has welcomed two new members to its family of buses, and they’re a spitting image of their grandparents – the vintage London double decks.

The new double deck buses are clean diesel and can carry 81 passengers – 25 more than the old buses. The model of the two new double deck buses debuted last month as a loaner bus; however the new models, painted red to match the Unitrans fleet, will arrive on campus in the next two weeks, said Unitrans general manager Geoff Straw.

“They are air conditioned, so we’ll be able to use them during the summer, and have a larger capacity, which permits us to have the same footprint but carry twice as many passengers,” he said. “They will actually save us money.”

Another benefit of the double deck buses is their clean emissions. The buses actually emit fewer pollutants than the natural gas buses, Straw said.

The double deck buses – in addition to six low emissions natural gas buses introduced in June of 2009 – were paid for with a combination of state and federal grants, including a $3,750,000 Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant to buy six single deck buses and two double deck buses.

For the six clean diesel single deck buses, Unitrans also received a $302,400 Sacramento Emergency Clean Air Transportation grant. Unitrans received a total of $4,052,400 in grant funding to purchase the eight buses. Funds from Unitrans’ reserves and a California Proposition 1B fund also contributed.

The six single deck buses cost a total of $3,153,803. The double deck buses cost approximately $800,000 each.

But the newly replaced double deck buses won’t be completely out of commission, Straw said.

“The community and the operators have a really strong sentimental attachment to them,” he said.

The vintage red double deck buses have been on the campus since 1968 and contain pre-select transmissions. Parts for these engines are extremely rare, and have required extensive maintenance to keep them not only running, but also under the emissions cap. One model, which has been retired to the Unitrans yard, is the last model RTL of its type in the world with its original configurations. Straw said they may sell it to a London Museum.

“This is a move towards the future,” Straw said, who operated the vintage buses when he was a student in the 1980s. “The sentimental part wants me to keep these running. But the financial part of me knows that it costs a lot to keep them running.”

– Lauren Steussy

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