on November 1, 2008 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

‘Bus of the Future’

CLEMSON — Representatives of the Nova LFS Artic, a 62-foot long, stainless steel bus designed to transport 120 passengers, stopped in Clemson on Friday to provide details of what they call the ‘Bus of the Future’ as well as a riding tour.

During their 1 1/2-hour visit, Jean Marc Landry, senior vice president for marketing for Nova Bus Company and Lee Morris, regional sales manager, told officials that bus designs have changed dramatically during the past dozen years. Landry said technology improvements have seen high floor buses transformed to low floor buses, made of stainless steel with non-corrosive materials.

“We’ve looked at quality and details, something that works and is reliable rather than just cheap,” Landry said.

Landry said Nova, in an effort to meet new emissions standards by 2010, has the cleanest diesel engine in existence today.

“You would need 60 new buses to pollute as much as one old bus,” he said.

Despite its enormous length, one that caught the attention of a number of Clemson University students during a tour of the campus Friday, the Nova LFS Artic proved quite maneuverable. For example, the turning radius is about the same as a Clemson Area Transit (CAT) bus.

CAT Executive Director Al Babinicz said bus ridership remains strong with more than two million passengers expected this year. But Babinicz added that many of those riders, consisting primarily of students, faculty and staff, represent 93 nations and demand the state-of-the-art services that Nova would provide.

While Babinicz said the Nova LFS Artic buses cost $625,000 for the standard model (diesel only) as compared to $850,000 for the hybrid version (diesel and electric), he added that 80 percent of the cost is fundable by the Federal Transit Administration.

“If you can get one of those buses for $625,000, compared to $1.2 million for three CAT buses ($400,000 each), you can see the savings involved as well as the operation cost savings,” he said.

City Administrator Rick Cotton told officials that it’s never too early for Clemson to start thinking about such a purchase, especially considering six CAT buses are due for replacement in two years. In addition, 300 LFS Nova Buses are on back order, and the average order time for a Nova bus in North America is 14 to 18 months.

“We’ve got to start thinking today, to write the specs and get them approved by Al and the (South Carolina) DOT (Department of Transportation) so, in six months, we can have our bids on the street and pick a bid to pick a bus and have it delivered two years from now,” Cotton said. “If you think we don’t need it, think two years out.”

While Cotton said replacing all six buses with Nova would be “unrealistic,” he added that a couple of the Nova buses could be used for the 4-U ridership, the Tiger Route and the Express Route between Seneca and Clemson.

Following the presentation, officials, including Cotton, Clemson Mayor Larry Abernathy, Clemson City Council member J.C. Cook, Public Works Director David Connor and Seneca City Administrator Greg Dietterick boarded the bus for a test ride. The Nova bus features three doors on one side for quick entry and for unloading passengers.

Abernathy, whose observance of the Blacksburg, Va. Public Transit System in the early 1990s led to the formation of CAT in 1996, said during the tour that the Nova bus “was beyond belief.”

“This is science fiction to me,” Abernathy said. “I’ve never been on a bus this big because I’ve never envisioned a bus this big.”

Abernathy said he hopes to see money reinvested back into the transit system for technology and alternative fuels for emissions improvements.

“We’ve got to stay in front of the curve because, Lord knows, we would take a lot of cars off the road,” Abernathy said.

Dietterick said was impressed by the bus that could one day serve the city he leads.

“It’s a fantastic bus,” Dietterick said. “It’s the wave of the future.”