Double-decker bus controversy arrives in San Luis Obispo

August 30, 2010


Updated Aug. 31. to include the price of the bus and statements by Tim Bochum, deputy director of public works.

Amid budget cuts and plans to raise the cost of bus service for the elderly and disabled, San Luis Obispo city officials announced a ribbon cutting ceremony to promote the addition of a new double-decker bus the city purchased for $850,000.

The ribbon cutting for the only California municipal-owned European style bus is scheduled for September 7 at 2:30 p.m. at City Hall.

The 14 foot-high bus does not fit under railroad bridges and tree lined roads. Because of this, the bus was unable to cover all but a portion of one existing route without modifications.

City workers moved obstacles on the two busiest routes.

“To make sure there were no issues we trimmed trees and had the cable company raise two cables,” said Dee Lawson, public works transit assistant. “The bus will do Route 4 in the morning and Route 5 in the afternoon.”

In addition, public works’ officials are planning to reconstruct the opening of the maintenance building to accommodate the two-story vehicle. Additional costs, such as hiring an outside firm to wash the bus because it will not fit in the city’s wash station, are also expected.

Tim Bochum, deputy director of public works, said the city purchased the bus to eliminate problems with leave behinds in the past. Usually during the first few weeks of a quarter at Cal Poly, the city would run an extra bus for a few hours four mornings a week to eliminate problems with buses being to crowded to fit all the people waiting to get on.

And while the city has decided to take two spare buses out of commission and only purchase one new bus, the amount of miles being driven will remain unchanged, aside from the overflow buses that run at least 24 hours a year.

In addition, Bochum said the funds for the new bus do not come out of the same pot used for operational costs. The federal, state and county monies, primarily federal monies, used for the bus were for  earmarked for capital expenditures.

In June, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted unanimously to defer requests for permission to raise standard fares from $1.25 to $1.50 and disabled fares from 60 cents to 75 cents. In addition, they rejected proposals that riders, who currently use free transfer passes from bus to bus, pay the full rate for each transfer more than doubling their cost of riding the bus.

Councilman Andrew Carter noted that when the city raised standard fares from $1 to $1.25 and disabled and senior fares from 50 cents to 60 cents in 2009, the amount of revenue dropped because of a decrease in ridership.

The council asked staff to consider charging more for monthly passes to make up for a budget deficit attributed to the reduced ridership and a 16 percent reduction in state funding.

Staffers are now requesting permission to raise senior and disabled monthly passes from $12.50 to $15, Lawson said. In addition, riders, who currently use free transfer passes from bus to bus, would have to pay 75 cents if the fare modifications are approved.

John Webster, public works transit manager, warned the council in June that if they do not find away to lower the deficit, they would be forced to cut services.

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CRUSADER: Read my response under your post about the $450 car allowance. Sorry I did post at the top!!!

This reminds me of those tiny little ladder trucks that needed a second person steering at the backs of the trucks. They were bought as a MUST HAVE by Callahan’s predecessor. At least one of them rotted away in the field behind Station #1 (another expensive trophy.)

See, they can use the ladder trucks to wash the bus and don’t need to find a contract service to wash it!

Now that’s funny!

“Better” requires metrics. How much? What condition? Delivery from how far away? How does it compare to the unit purchased?

Purchase price: 40% less.

Condition: New vs. new (purely qualitative on quantitative.)

FOB point: Immaterial. The double-decker is coming from AT LEAST as far away as the articulated buses.

Savings: No SUPER high bay maintenance structure, no special wash rack, etc. etc. On yeah, and it can go under bridges.



Riverside California

10 percent more than total of two forty foot buses

Double deck bus capacity is more than double capacity of two forty foot buses

81 versus 72

I driver versus two

Can be used on six of seven routes and all bus stops without modifications

Less emissions than two buses operating at the same time

Funding could not be used for operationsNo city general fund or measure Y used


I love this bus!

Sounds like a satisfied bus passenger

And isn’t that voice the only one that matters in this entire debate?

Articulated buses are not possible at the existing bus stops in SLO

So you say…


PLEASE!!! explain how you would fit a 60′ articulated bus into the main transfer center outside city hall that has head in parking (sawtooth design)for five buses that are 45′???

Also what exactly to you estimate the cost to reconfiguer the over 200 bus stops in the city designed for 40′ buses to accomodate a 60′ articulated bus???


For as little as that bus will run it would have been staged parallel to the curb (yes I know — it would momentarily be taking the room of 2-3 buses) for loading. That’s one of your problems. Some of your assumptions simply aren’t valid. You guys at the city WANTED the cutesy DD bus no matter the facts.


How do you park “parallel to the curb” when using a head in parking (sawtooth) design or is that an “assumption”?

Perhaps leaving the extra 15′ of an articulated sticking out and blocking the East bound lane on Osos is your solution?


Ever wonder why double-deckers aren’t common throughout California or other parts of the USA or the world for that matter?


Visit LA and watch the RTD, Santa Monica, Culver City, etc. busses where they really have to move A LOT of people. They are long articulated buses. In the simplest terms a bus with an trailing extension.

Good grief, these bureaucrats in SLO must be freaking brain-dead.

Are you sure about that or are you just making convenient assumptions?

Those buses are necessary in long haul metro routes because of bridges, wires, tunnels, and more that don’t exist in the route this unit was purchased for (except for 2 wires). Since this thing is obviously a kludge it surely made the price come down. How much would an articulated bus cost? Don’t happen to know the answer to that would you? If not, then how can you make ignorant assertions of fact?

Bottom line is how much information and study did you put into this before this article appeared? I’m betting you aren’t at all privy to any of the pros and cons weighed in this purchase decision.

And NONE of you seem to pick up that I’m not even defending this purchase–I just hate ignorant proclamations.

@SLOrider: You seem to be making stuff up as you type. No, the articulated buses are not a design “kludge” — obvious or otherwise. They are popular and well-engineered vehicles. Very common in today’s world. The double-decker buses began in England and there are reasons they never caught on. Purchase price, maintenance costs, inability to run certain routes and on-road stability all doomed the double deckers — except here in SLO of course.

Yes, the articulated buses are able to run under bridges, wires and tunnels — just as ALL buses should! It’s stunning that SLO City chose a bus that wouldn’t be able to run on ALL existing routes. True stupidity.

I can already see this damned bus parked for keeps in the SLO City yard out on Prado — or maybe it will become the new SLOFD’s “party bus.”

Stop making things up SLOrider — you don’t pack the gear for this debate…

SLOrider said:

“Since this thing is obviously a kludge it surely made the price come down.”

SLOrider then said:

“I’m not even defending this purchase–I just hate ignorant proclamations.”

You “hate ignorant proclamations” yet you spew them left and right because you’re not able to think in a critical manner. We can see right through your comments, SLOrider…


The ability to submit online criticism does not equate to be rated as critical thinking as your multiple comments lacking any factual basis other than a trepartyish sound byte.

And as far as YOU having the Gear to debate on transit related issues all would agree you can’t hold a battle of wits with an unarmed person.

Articulated buses cannot be used at the existing bus stops in SLO City due to the added length

So paint more of the curb white.

Another typical assumption from someone who has never rode a bus.

For the record bus stops have Red curb

If transituser’s amazing knowledge of specific facts associated with public transportation is indeed a result of City employment…..that means that we tax payers are actually paying transituser to write on this blog……WHAT A TERRIFIC CONCEPT….LET’S GO ORDER ANOTHER DD BUS, because we have money to burn…..doncha think?

Community Transit has purchased 23 double decker buses to replace an equal number of 60-foot articulated buses that are nearing the end of their service life. The new buses are currently being constructed to Community Transit’s specifications.

“Aside from the great views on The Double Tall, this bus can hold more passengers than a 60-foot bus while taking up less roadspace,” said Joyce Eleanor, Community Transit CEO. “The smaller footprint also means it takes up less room on downtown Seattle streets and less space at our operating base.”

YUP- Double Deck buses just not catching on……

If you were canned tomorrow, aside from the almost certain lawsuit, what impact would it have on city provided services?

Can you disagree without being disagreeable?

What the hell is wrong with these people (SLO City bureaucrats)?

Double Decker Bus Trial SFMTA Fact Sheet

The SFMTA is testing a double deck bus, which is one of many vehicles we will assess, to determine how well it performs on busy San Francisco bus routes and how it is perceived by our transit customers.

SFMTA is exploring a variety of innovative ways to improve the quality of Muni service through the Transit Effectiveness Project. By bringing the double deck bus to San Francisco, customers will have an opportunity to ride the bus and provide feedback, thus shaping Muni’s future.

SFMTA is interested in double deck buses because they have proven to carry heavy passenger volumes in other cities and may improve reliability and crowding on Muni’s busiest lines. The test bus arrived on November 28, 2007 and will be here through January 9, 2008. After about 10 days of training and tours, the bus will operate in-service on multiple Muni routes. Throughout the pilot, the SFMTA staff will distribute customer and employee surveys, in addition to collecting data on boarding and travel time and ridership data. If the bus performs well, the SFMTA could consider this type of vehicle for future procurement.

BenefitsCustomer BenefitsSimilar (if not more) capacity to an articulated 60 foot bus, but will have more seating. The test vehicle will have 83 seats and Muni’s articulated buses have 55-57 seats. Operations and Maintenance BenefitsMany Muni bus yards are overcrowded, making fleet expansion challenging. Double deck buses require 30% less space than articulated buses for storage and maintenance. Similar maintenance costs to a 40 foot single deck bus (e.g., no articulated joint to maintain). Requires less space at bus stops than articulated vehicles. Facts and Specifications40 feet long – low floor – 1 stairway – 2 doors 14 feet tall – 8.3 feet wide 83 seats (as tested) – other plans available (generally 73-83 seats) 2 wheelchair securement areas Manufacturer:

Alexander Dennis Limited

Offices in Guildford, Sussex, England and Canyon Lake, CA


Low-emission Diesel – 330 hp – automatic transmission

(Hybrid Electric Diesel is currently under development)

In service:

London and other cities in England; Hong Kong; and Las Vegas, NV. Las Vegas has nearly 100 double deck buses of this type from this company in service, and another several dozen on order.


Similar to price of 60 foot articulated diesel coaches in service at Muni

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) How much will the pilot trial cost?

Alexander Dennis is loaning the bus to SFMTA free of charge. SFMTA will pay for fuel and evaluation costs.

How much does a double deck bus cost?

The cost of a double deck bus is very similar to the cost of a 60 foot bus. Las Vegas paid about $800,000 per vehicle in 2006. Actual costs vary dependent upon how optional features are configured (e.g., seating arrangements, heating and air conditioning).

What is the height of the bus? Will it clear the trolley wires and other obstacles?

The pilot bus is 14 feet high, similar to double deck tourist buses already in service throughout San Francisco. It will comfortably clear trolley wires and other obstacles. The Broadway Tunnel will be avoided as it is only 13.5 feet high.

Will the SFMTA charge fares while the bus is in service?

We will not charge customers; however; we are requesting that customers complete surveys.

Will the double deck bus be accessible to people with disabilities?

This vehicle was designed to meet ADA accessibility standards. It is a low-floor bus with an accessible ramp and two wheelchair securements on the lower level. The front seats on the lower level will be prioritized for seniors and people with disabilities. The upstairs is only accessible by stairwell.

When and where will the bus run in service?

The bus will run from the beginning of the morning peak until the end of the evening peak (approximately 6:30 am to 6:30 pm). It will run on several routes. We are posting the schedule on this Web site for passengers interested in testing it out.

Determine whether your route is part of the test

Are Muni operators trained to drive double deck buses?

A select number of operators will be trained to drive the double deck bus and will be tested to confirm their proficiency. The vehicle operates similar to a standard 40ft vehicle.

Is it possible for the buses to roll over or be unbalanced if the upper deck is full?

The buses are designed with a low center of gravity, so even if the upstairs is at capacity, the bus is not likely to tilt.

Does Alexander Dennis make a double deck electric diesel hybrid bus?

An electric diesel hybrid is in development.

How is the safety of passengers going to be monitored?

Upstairs activity is monitored by the operator through a video camera. Operators will follow standard safety practices if an incident is observed anywhere on the vehicle.

Do double deck buses require more time for passengers to get on and off the bus?

The trial will examine the issue of dwell time, or how long a bus is at a stop. The bus will be fitted with automatic passenger counters (APC) that record dwell time (load and unload time) at bus stops. SFMTA staff will also ride on board to observe.

Will SFMTA collect data and passenger feedback during the trial?

Yes. In addition to the APC data that will be collected, customers will be encouraged to complete survey cards, SFMTA staff will ride on board to observe field operations, and bus operators and maintenance staff will be surveyed.

Where else are these buses used in the world?

This type of bus is used in London and other English cities, Hong Kong, and in Las Vegas, Nevada. Double deck tour buses are already used in San Francisco.

Do the buses meet “Buy American” standards?

The double deck buses are manufactured in the U.K., but are finished and outfitted in the U.S.A. where the engine and the seats are installed. Alexander Dennis has an office in Canyon Lake, CA,

Can this bus be modified to operate as an electric trolley-coach?

Likely, but the SFMTA is not considering double deck trolley coaches at this time.


SFMTA is exploring a variety of innovative ways to improve the quality of Muni service” could it be the same for SLO!!!!

M.T.A. Might Bring Back Double-Decker Buses


Updated, 4:10 p.m. | Double-decker buses — a fixture of the streetscape in London and other international cities — could be making a comeback in New York City. Officials at New York City Transit said today that the agency was considering bringing back double-decker buses, similar to ones that used to run in the city decades ago.

The officials said the buses could seat as many people as an articulated bus — the double-length buses, each pivoting around a joint in the middle, that are used on some of the city’s busiest routes — while needing less maintenance.

In considering the last several weeks and the performance of our City Leaders …. well let’s simply put this way …. ya can’t fix stupid !

Calls for the removal of the bendy bus escalated this summer after a series of accidents, including one in which Lee Beckwith, 21, was killed when he was trapped by a bus door in Essex and dragged for a mile.

TfL figures suggest bendy buses are more likely to be involved in an accident. It is estimated that they cause 5.6 pedestrian injuries per million miles operated, compared with 0.97 per million for all other buses.

Bendy buses, manufactured by Mercedes-Benz, are also involved in 2.62 collisions with cyclists per million miles, compared with 0.97 for other buses, and have 153 accidents per million miles, compared with 87 per million on non-bendy routes. Critics say that because passengers don’t have to board at the front, many avoid paying.

“Many Londoners, particularly cyclists, see the awkward elongated bulk of the bendy bus as unsuitable for the city’s streets,” Mr Johnson said. “I am making sure the buses are removed in the most cost-effective way and today’s new contract marks the beginning of the end for bendy buses in London.”

Bendy buses make up 5 per cent of the London bus fleet but the 350 vehicles are responsible for about 20 per cent of bus-related deaths. They were introduced by the former mayor Ken Livingstone, who decommissioned the Routemasters.

AKA articulated buses

Pardon the grammatical errors.

Of course SLO will be the have the only municipally-owned double-decker bus in the state. No other city’s purse-string holders would make such an assinine purchase during this economic downturn. You watch, I’ll betcha the bus will get some use at first and then the ridership will taper off to near nothing after the novelty wears off. Get a clue all of you SLO city shot-callers.

Route 4 often runs TWO BUSES back-to-back in the morning and this makes perfect sense. Route 5 is reverse in the afternoon. Half the labor cost. As much as I want to hate it, it makes sense.

And during rain, BOTH buses together cannot take all the passengers.

Somehow I don’t think the cost of one bus driver is more than all the extra infrastructure this one bus adds, besides what are they going to do with the extra bus they now have?

(0) Labor is ALWAYS the most expensive cost. Plus, don’t forget the maintenance of two units instead of one.

(1) I don’t know

(2) Notwithstanding #1, they obviously bought it used at that price. Being that you don’t know about the “extra” bus, let’s consider they might have a very old and expensive to maintain unit that needs retirement. Or, that they are in need to replace an aging reserve (backup) unit.

In other words, I see a lot of harsh criticism absent much knowledge. And, yes, I think the double-decker looks kinda stupid, but I’ve also been left in the rain on Route 4 and watched TWO full buses go by.

0, How many hours of a bus-driver’s wage will $300K cover, I’ll wager about four years,(oh wait, we are talking SLO, could be as little as one;))

Older units are almost always cheaper to maintain, plus as you noted this one is used too, so there may be no difference.

If it looks like a pig with wings it probably is.

What in your mind would justify the extra costs of the garage improvements, the street modifications, the outside contract washing expense. Twenty extra seats on occasional rainy days?

And no ability to use it on other routs if needed.

A lot of questions… why not find out the answers?

First, it’s wage + operating cost + an extra bus available

That’s EASILY one year. I’m not justifying anything. How the hell do I know how all the numbers work out? My point is, I don’t see even any moderately informed detractors amongst the opposing comments here.

Come up with how this doesn’t pencil out and present it. Someone has done a lot of homework on this, so let’s have some data.

Please read my below comment. The fact lacking is the ridership numbers that likly don’t justify the existing expenses.

Let’s just toss the name of the town, for SLOpenhagen and get on with bicycle Boulevards, tasty beer, roundabouts, friendly police, and

Eurostyle buses that run from Nipomo to Cayucos from Cal Poly to Pismo from Higurea to Broad on Prado road . Seriously this is a nice bus.

Gee, how about longer, articulated busses like they run in municipalities without brain-dead bureaucrats at the helm?

Financially speaking, you are not even close. To add this double deck bus for one run in the AM and one in the afternoon because they “often run two buses back to back” does not justify the expense. With each run with the double trendy producing one hour of work savings at $40 per hour, it will take 72 years to pay for this bus. A wise operator would take existing resources and double up the buses as is current practice based on need. Most of the buses I see around town are not filed to capacity and better management of the existing resources is the smarter move.

Even the city officials are have noted a decrease in revenue and decline in usage and may have to reduce services. To top that off, we are holding a ribbon cutting ceremony because we are so proud of wasting more money. Please stop this, my side aches from laughter. Seriously, city council please try the “For the People, By the People” thing just once.