STAMFORD -- CTTransit riders on heavily travelled bus routes running through Port Chester, N.Y., downtown Stamford and Norwalk will see more open seats next month when they become some of the first riders in the state to board a new fleet of 60-foot articulated buses, officials said.
Beginning this week, CTTransit adopted a series of schedule and service changes partly to accommodate the anticipated introduction of the new fleet of biodiesel buses, which are expected to reduce crowding on the routes and have better fuel economy, said Philip Fry, general manager for CTTransit.
The buses, which cost $619,000 each, are part of a multi-year order of buses being purchased by the Connecticut Department of Transportation to replace much of CTTransit's fleet, said Fry.
The 13 buses will replace 13 of the 15-year-old 40-foot Nova buses which will be retired, Fry said.
"It should make for a more pleasant and less crowded ride for those routes," Fry said.
CTTransit aims to get the buses in service in late February, after training drivers and mechanics in their operation and maintenance, Fry said.
The buses will be designated to three busier routes, Route 11 which stretches from Port Chester to the Stamford rail station through Greenwich, Route 41 from Stamford rail station to the Norwalk Wheels Hub in Norwalk, and Route 43 between Atlantic Square dowtown and Glenbrook, Fry said.
Last Thursday, one of the buses drew glances from downtown onlookers when it drove up Atlantic Street and Broad Street with CTTransit safety and training coordinator Desmond Hinds at the wheel.
Hinds has been driving the buses along the three chosen routes to check that the current routes can accommodate the wide turns the buses must make, said Joseph Williams Jr., superintendent of transportation for CTTransit's Stamford division.
Hinds said the Stamford division's 80 drivers will begin their driver training on the longer buses in early February at the Clairol property on Blachley Road.
"Driving the bus is more akin to driving a tractor trailer and you use different reference points when making a turn," said Hinds.
The biodiesel buses also feature equipment that meets tougher federal emissions standards for nitrogen oxide emissions that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began imposing in 2010.
The new system injects a small amount of catalytic solution into the hot exhaust stream leaving the bus, which converts nitrogen oxide into nitrogen and water vapor. The vapor is treated with a second agent that breaks down any remaining ammonia before leaving the bus, according to Fry.
"The emissions are almost too low to be measured," Fry said.
"In some cities the air coming out of the exhaust system is cleaner than the air going in."
The articulated buses, have a seating capacity of 57 compared to 36 seated on buses to be replaced, Fry said.
Mark Astwood, a 23-year-old Stamford man who is studying to become an electrician, said the new buses will be welcome and he is often without a seat on the 40-foot buses when he catches a ride from Atlantic Square on the bus Route 41 bus to his evening job at PetSmart in Norwalk three nights a week.
"To tell the truth, the bus can be pretty full after the first two stops after the rail station," Astwood said.
"Just around the corner at Macy's usually another eight to 10 people get the bus."
"I think it is going to be great because the buses get pretty crowded," said Johnson.