AC Transit releasing double-decker bus for 3-week trial program

Clarence L. Johnson/Courtesy

AC Transit plans to commence a three-week double-decker bus pilot program Monday for selected routes throughout the Bay Area, including Berkeley.

The program, which will run from Monday to March 15, will test a 42-foot long, 80-seat double-decker bus along both local and transbay lines, including the U, FS, L, NX and 51B lines. AC Transit will not charge a fare for riding the new buses during the trial period.

The focus during the trial will be on commuter feedback, according to AC Transit spokesperson Clarence Johnson. Johnson said that nothing conclusive can be said regarding long-term plans but that the company will use the feedback to carefully weigh the costs and benefits of using the double-decker buses.

Johnson said he believes any increase in fuel consumption compared to traditional buses will probably be offset by the greater capacity of these buses. The buses can also reduce traffic while fixing problems of overcrowding and accessibility onboard, he added.

Johnson said that he acknowledges that these buses may take longer at stops for commuters to get on and off and that this will be closely scrutinized during the trial period.

Joel Ramos, the regional planning director at TransForm, a California transportation advocacy agency, said that although TransForm does not yet have an official position on double-decker buses, he personally supports it. Ramos described the program as an “out-of-the-box approach” to provide more transit service while using fewer resources. He said, however, that the buses may not be practical in certain areas given their height — such as in San Francisco, where there are many low-hanging cables.

Kevin Bai, a freshman at UC Berkeley, has ridden double-decker buses in London and said he is excited for the program.

“Everyone had space not only for themselves but also their stuff,” Bai said of his experience. “These buses also did not slow things down, as most people who needed more time to exit the bus simply stayed on the lower deck.”

Nick Cheng, another campus freshman, believes this program may be inefficient. Cheng said given the number of stops along some of the local routes and how many commuters get on and off at these stops, having two decks can be a liability. Cheng added, however, that for transbay routes, these buses would “make sense.”

The bus will be on display on certain days throughout the trial period at AC Transit’s general office in Oakland and the Transbay Temporary Terminal in San Francisco. Ambassadors will be handing out surveys as well as answering questions both on the bus and at the public display.

If AC Transit decides to use double-decker buses on a permanent basis, they could be in operation as early as 2017.

Contact Natchapol Praditpetchara at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @natchapolp.