As New Haven bus driver Wilbert Ragsdale describes it, the bus he has been driving for the past 20 years has grown a 20-foot tail.
As of last Monday, the Connecticut Department of Transportation added 12 60-foot buses to the New Haven CTTRANSIT fleet of public buses. These longer buses are formally called articulated buses, which are commonly referred to as “bendy buses,” and have the ability to make turns like a 40-foot bus, using an accordion-like middle section that allows the last 20 feet of bus to bend inward. The new buses, which are roomier, were met with positive reviews from New Haven residents interviewed yesterday.
Phillip Fry, Assistant General Manager of Planning and Marketing at CTTRANSIT, said that the new buses were a necessity in New Haven to deal with the constant over-crowding on some of the popular routes.
“Sometimes, a driver would have to drive right past a bus stop where people were waiting because there was absolutely no room on the bus,” he said.
The old 40-foot buses had 38 seats with space for about 50 standees. In comparison, the new bendy bus can fit 120 people comfortably. Because the buses require that drivers receive training to use them, only two buses are currently making daily rounds. However, others will be ready after more drivers complete their articulated bus driving training. The CTTransit website said that each bus costs $619,000, and will be replacing the current 15-year-old buses.
Bus passenger Sandra Turner, who rides the Grand Avenue “D” route everyday, said the new buses are better than the previous option. She complained of hardly ever being able to find a seat on the old buses.
“This is literally a breath of fresh air,” she said on her afternoon commute yesterday. “The old bus makes me sick. It smells so bad with so many people packed in.”
Fry said other passengers see the bendy bus as a “way cool” amusement ride of sorts, adding that they often stand in the middle to move with the bus as it bends.
Ragsdale said he has had a more challenging experience of adapting to the new bus, adding that there are more buttons, gadgets and length to deal with. However, he said the bendy buses are a good addition to the New Haven fleet because passengers have a more comfortable riding experience.
“I just have to get used to that tail,” he said.
The articulated buses are in accordance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 emission standards. Fourteen similarly environmentally friendly 40-foot buses were added to the New Haven fleet by the end of April.