Bus facts

Wait, that title doesn’t rhyme. Well, whatever.

A 2600 series bus out of the Center garage, serving line 20 at Sunset TC

Recently in the news was TriMet’s announcement that 55 new buses will be added to the fleet next year to replace some of the older buses, followed by an additional 14 buses in 2013. In case you were wondering, here’s what we’re working with now. We have three garages (Center, Powell, and Merlo) and among them there are

626 buses

of which 600 are active buses and 26 are contingency buses. Overall fleet facts about those 600 active buses, and why this replacement is necessary:


A 30′ 1600 series bus (one of the oldest series still in service at TriMet; they were acquired in 1990) at Gateway TC

Of the active fleet, 161 of them (about 27%) are 18 years or older.
Another 14 are between 15-18 years old, so altogether about 29% of the buses in the fleet are over 15 years old.

An older 1700 series bus (from 1992) on line 52 and a somewhat newer 2200 series bus (from either 1998 or 1999), Beaverton Transit Center

The bulk of the fleet, or 264 buses (44%) are between 10 and 15 years old.

Then there are 121 buses (about 20%) that are between 5 and 9 years old.

2800 series bus (entered service 2005) 

Finally, we have 40 buses (about 7%) that are less than 5 years old.

2900 series bus (the newest TriMet uses from 2009) at Beaverton TC

Our average bus age is about 13.5 years. As a peer comparison, the average bus age at transit agencies similar to TriMet is 7.4 years. The interesting thing about our fleet averaging over 12 years is that for a 40′ bus, 12 years is considered the service life (linked article is very long, but interesting). Most 40′ buses across a wide variety of agencies which were surveyed in that study (LA Transit Authority, MBTA, NYC Transit, Toronto Transit Commission, WMATA, Austin Metro, and several rural agencies) are retired around age 13, and about 9% are still in service at about 15 years. So the large proportion of old buses in our fleet is substandard compared with other transit agencies.

Borrowed picture of a 2100 series (from 1997) bus from Center on what is normally a Merlo run – on holidays all bus runs come out of Center which can sometimes mean a newer bus than a run would typically get

Because the FTA considers 40′ buses to be “12-year buses”, they are eligible for replacement funding via grants once they’ve been in service for 12 years. Over 400 of our active buses are either over 12 years or very nearly there. Now granted, I’m not the brightest cabbage in the patch so I could be interpreting this wrong, but it looks like there are grant programs available that would cover a lot of the bus replacement cost (up to 90% if it qualifies as compliance with the Clean Air Act or as an ADA replacement, and I wonder if replacing some of the older buses with faulty lifts counts toward that), so if I’m reading that correctly, I hope those are avenues we’re pursuing in addition to the State of Good Repair grant that is funding the purchase of those additional 14 buses in 2013. Speaking of the ADA…


For ADA accessibility, all of our buses can accommodate wheelchairs. However, 240 of the buses are high-floor buses which necessitate the use of lifts for passengers needing mobility assistance. 360 buses in the fleet are low floor buses, where the operator can simply deploy a ramp, which is faster and more reliable than the older lift-equipped buses.

Picture borrowed from Al M, during this past September’s heat wave. Not the ideal sustained temperature in your work environment..

And for summer weather, 425 of the buses have air conditioning and 175 do not. Sure Portland summers are generally mild, but the inside temperature of the unairconditioned buses still tops 100 degrees when we get a heat wave (thanks, greenhouse effect!)

We are getting 55 new buses next year. Great! It’s a start, and a much-needed one. But we still have a long way to go – adding in those new buses and assuming they will replace 55 of the oldest buses still leaves us with 106 that are more than 18 years old, and 195 buses that are not low-floors / 120 that are unairconditioned. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic… I really am glad we’re getting new equipment, but I also hope that we keep up this focus and momentum where it is sorely needed.

This chart needs more green & blue..

9 responses to “Bus facts

  1. Sweet. Is there an online source where you could get these numbers? We’ve got them on our site but of course they’re a moving target.

    • As far as the proportions of each age range? Not that I’m aware of, but I know data like this had been presented at one of the board meetings earlier this year, so it might be in those minutes. Failing that, Al M would have the video.

  2. Oh, and a little pimping while I’m at it: our 2011 bus rankings include average age data by route. Click the triangles above the rightmost column to find the average age for your line: the newest are the 57, 54, 56 and the oldest are the 66, 155, 61. (Average bus age on the 66: 23 years!!)

    Also, the frequent service line with the oldest buses (at least as of last spring) was, of course, the Jerry Springer.

  3. Another excellent piece of investigative blogging!

  4. My understanding is that buses last longer here because of the mild climate.

  5. Pingback: TriMet Diaries Links of Interest (5-December-2011) | TriMet Diaries

  6. Can you be more specific about the 14 buses which are 15-18 years old? Which buses are those exactly? Thanks.

  7. I collected some pictures of the manufacturing information plaques on various buses in the fleet last year. I can send you them, if you like.

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