MNTRC Report 12-27
Principal Investigator: Suresh Iyer, Ph.D.
This report details the results of research on market comparison, operational cost efficiencies, and prototype tests conducted on a novel design for an Advanced Low Floor Vehicle (ALFV), flex-route transit bus. Section I describes how the need for such a bus arises from a combination of diminishing transit funding from the federal government and demographic and transportation factors. Section II describes the unique features of this bus design that render it suitable for rural and urban operation, including improved transit passenger and wheelchair accessibility, reduced maintenance, structural design features, safety provisions, and the technical specifications of this design. Section III details the potential differences in capital and operational costs of procuring and operating this bus in a fleet. Potential cost reductions due to the long-life vehicle concept, maneuverability, operational savings (from APTA Bus Roadeo tests), and reserve fleet savings are explored. Section IV refers to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) new model bus tests (“Altoona Testing”). However, at the this time, the Altoona Bus Test Report for these tests is not yet released by the bus manufacturer, Ride Solution, Inc., as is its right under the Bus Testing Regulation. The report must be released to the public before this bus can be purchased by a transit agency using FTA funds. In addition to the standard Altoona Bus Test, additional research was conducted to determine the turning ability, suspension travel, ramp travel index, field of view for the driver, compliance to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, and timed assessment of wheelchair securement. Section IV also presents the results of these tests. Section V presents results from a market comparison that included the buses in this mid-size category that were tested at Altoona and are expected to be available for FTA grantees to purchase. The specifications and performance of the ALFV bus are compared with these buses. Section VI presents a flex-route utilization plan, and Section VII provides the results from a survey of transit professionals about their interest in the features of this bus design. Section VIII gives Ride Solution’s experience in developing the concept for ALFV. Conclusions of this report are presented in Section IX, followed by the references and appendices.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Suresh Iyer, Ph.D.
Dr. Iyer is a research associate at the Larson Institute of The Pennsylvania State University and served as the lead investigator for this project at Penn State. Dr. Iyer contributes more than thirty years’ experience in design, manufacture, and testing of automobiles and components. He currently directs emissions research and testing at the Bus Research and Testing Center of the Larson Institute. He teaches courses on internal combustion engines and mentors graduate students in combustion science and emissions research. He has published his work in several refereed journals and presented at technical meetings and conferences. He received the co-performer award for Project of the Year for work related to Combustion Science for Military Platforms from the Strategic Environmental Research Development Program.
Mr. Mishra is a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Penn State. His research experience includes design and fabrication of an all-terrain vehicle for a nationwide competition in India, and a comparative study of biomass gasification systems to establish the merits of a cyclone-type gasifier for low-density biomass feedstock. Mr. Mishra received an Institute Merit Scholarship, gold medal for first place in the senior state-level Mathematics Olympiad, and senior state-level Chemistry Olympiad. He also received a scholarship from India’s Central Board of Secondary Education for academic excellence.
Mr. Klinikowski is director of the Bus Research and Testing Program operated by the Larson Institute at Penn State. He has served as program manager, mechanical/vehicle test engineer, project supervisor, and engineering research technician. He has experience in the development and implementation of testing procedures and programs, the design of fabrication automotive electronic and mechanical systems, and data analysis. The testing program is involved in active research and testing new transit technologies, vehicle emissions test methods, advanced materials and propulsion systems, and transit vehicle durability, safety, and performance. Mr. Klinikowski’s responsibilities also include managing the test track operations at the Penn State Bus Research Testing Facility. He is author of many publications and has received several awards for his contributions to research, including Penn State’s Research and Graduate School’s Outstanding Staff Award.
Mr. Thompson is the director of operations for Ride Solution, Inc., Florida. His interest in human service and public transportation derives from having been a school bus driver in high school, a California Class A Mechanic and dynamometer technician in late 1960s, a UCLA graduate with a BA in psychology in 1972, and a social worker from that point on. The coordination of human service transportation in Florida, under Chapter 427, F.S., offered him the opportunity in 1986 to merge his technical interests with human service. Along with Dr. Carl Thornblad and Ms. Myra Strange, he is responsible for Ride Solution’s in-house development of software that enabled Florida’s first flex-route system. Ride Solution’s strategies for flex-route development were published in 1996 under the US Department of Transportation Technology Sharing program as DOT-T-97-01, “Operational Strategies for Rural Transportation.” Mr. Thompson’s current efforts include development of a hydraulic hybrid version of the ALFV bus, as well as software development to merge flex route and ride share management into regional transit.
Ms. Strange is operations manager for Ride Solution Inc., Florida. She started with Ride Solution as a transportation coordinator in 1996 and worked with Mr. Boyd Thompson and Dr. Carl Thornblad in developing a structured flex-route system for Putnam County, as well as supporting software. She has observed firsthand the benefits of the flex route system in improving access to rural public transportation and was instrumental in educating Ride Solution employees, as well as agencies and riders throughout the county, about the benefits of a coordinated, routed system over the traditional demand-response format. Ms. Strange has been a key resource to the North East Florida Mobility Coalition’s “One Call-One Click” regional scheduling software project, which, under the leadership of the Jacksonville Transit Authority, is linking nine counties in northeast Florida into a single trip management database. Public service remains the central motivation for her work in community transportation and the ongoing development projects of Ride Solution.
Ms. Boggs is Ride Solution’s Office Manager. She also started as a transportation coordinator in 2000 and worked on flex routing with Mr. Boyd Thomson and Ms. Myra Strange. Ms. Boggs’ compassionate approach is felt throughout the Ride Solution system. She was named Dispatcher of the Year in 2005 by the Florida State Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged. She is integral to all Ride Solution development projects. Ms. Boggs is also a key resource in the regional “One Call-One Click” project.
Carl Thornblad, Ph.D.
Dr. Thornblad is a consultant to Ride Solution, Inc. and prepared a market study for this project. He has considerable experience, and he designed and programmed an advanced computerized transportation management system that was awarded a State of Florida citation by the Governor’s Office and an award for outstanding national rural transportation use of computers by the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration. Dr. Thornblad has also served as a transportation consultant to the Iowa Department of Transportation, the Jacksonville (Florida) Transit Authority, Volusia County, Florida Council of Governments, Bluebird Bus Company, and Carpenter Bus Company. In addition, he served as a financial and computer consultant to McAuto, the computer division of McDonald Douglas Aircraft of St. Louis, and as a management consultant to the speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. His government experience includes service as associate secretary for Finance, Legislation and Research of the Illinois Junior College Board, project leader of the Higher Education Budget for the Governor’s Office, Bureau of the Budget, State of Illinois, and a member of the Planning Department of the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. He has had a number of years’ experience at the federal level working on transportation and education issues, including a special study in education finance for the US Congress.
Authors: Suresh Iyer, Ph.D., Partha Mishra, David Klinikowski, Boyd Thompson, Myra Strange, Wanda Boggs, Carl Thornblad, Ph.D.
Published: August 2015
Keywords: New design, Low-floor vehicle, Transit bus, Flex-route operation, Cost effective