The City of Regina has introduced two new 60-foot buses to its fleet, to help meet demand on high-traffic routes and increase the transit system's efficiency.
"We've never had a 60-foot bus in our inventory," said Brad Bells, director of transit and fleet services for the City of Regina. "Normally, we have 40-foot buses.… We're pretty much the last major municipality in Canada without a 60-foot bus."
According to Bells, while these longer busses with their bendy "accordion" section in the middle are more expensive than their shorter counterparts — $900,000 each, compared to $600,000 for a 40-foot bus — they will be more efficient in the long run as they cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and need fewer driver hours to operate.
The city will be piloting the buses on route 18 — between Harbour Landing and the University of Regina — later this year.
And while Regina Transit has seen a steep decline in ridership over the last 14 months due to COVID-19, Bells is confident the larger buses will be needed once the pandemic is over.
"We do think we will need them in the future, and we definitely needed them when we ordered them … back in late 2019," he said. "When we were in business back pre-COVID, route 18 was extremely busy."
A typical 40-foot bus in Regina's fleet can accommodate about 37 seated people, or 57 standing. The articulating buses have over 50 seats, and a full standing load is over 100 people.
Bells expects the new buses to integrate themselves fairly seamlessly into the existing Regina Transit infrastructure.
"Obviously, you've got the accordion in the middle that has a bit of different maintenance to it, but really, the training of the bus itself is basically the same," he said.
"It basically has the same features that you see on a 40-foot bus for safety and accessibility.... we test-drove a bus before and made sure that the 60-foot ones could do the turn radius we want on the roads that we have it on."
Bells also believes the articulating buses could be very useful for transportation during major sporting events in the city.
"That was also one of our strategies in purchasing the 60-foot buses," he said. "When those large events happen back at Mosaic Stadium, that is exactly an opportunity for these buses to be in service."