Joe FitzGerald, founder and president of SuperBus Inc., calls it the bus of the future. For five days this week, Orange County Transit District riders along Harbor Boulevard will decide if he's right.
It hardly looks like a bus at all. Designed as a tractor-trailer rig with seats, the bus designed by the Buena Park-based company--in actual passenger service for the first time anywhere this week--offers several advantages over its lumbering predecessors, FitzGerald claims.
Because it can carry either large or small modules--the 46-foot trailer carries 68 passengers, while the 27-foot modules seats 27--the extra seats only have to be carried around during rush hour, when they are needed. When the smaller module is attached, the diesel engine can be throttled back to a lower horsepower setting for extra fuel savings.
Replacement costs would be lower because, while the tractor would be traded in every five years, the passenger modules would last an estimated 20 years, compared to a typical 12-year replacement schedule for ordinary buses, FitzGerald said.
Transit District officials said they will be interested to see passengers' reaction to the SuperBus in the form of marketing surveys being conducted among passengers who ride the bus this week--with SuperBus Inc. picking up the fare.
But there are no immediate plans to acquire any of the vehicles, which sell for an estimated $150,000 apiece.
For one thing, transit officials worry that, with the driver locked away in the cab of a truck, such things as transfers or dealing with emergencies would be difficult. "It's important to get that personal contact between the driver and the passengers," said district spokeswoman Joanne Curran.
Added Ron Redman, marketing manager for the Transit District: "I don't know if this is the bus of the future. You wouldn't believe how many buses of the future I've seen. I guess everybody's got their own interpretation."