The GRTC is in a big revitalization cycle. Eight buses recently joined its fleet, with another 44 new buses scheduled to arrive by next fall. GRTC planning director Larry Hagin says these are probably the last diesels to enter the fleet. The 2013 additions will be powered by compressed natural gas (CNG). "The fuel costs are lower and more stable. It's a game changer."
But it can't happen overnight. From order to delivery, acquiring a new bus from the Hayward, Calif.-based Gillig Corp. takes 18 months. Each of the CNG buses costs $420,000 apiece, and for GRTC to acquire 44, the transit system cobbled together several grants.
Other changes are accelerating. As you read this, GRTC should be rolling out its own bus-tracking system for computers, with mobile-phone access following soon. A phased installation of automated information kiosks remains slated, with at least four more planned for heavy traffic centers, from Main Street Station to Willow Lawn. Upgrading the signage at stops is also in the planning stages.
A subtle difference in the eight newer buses is that playwright/actor Irene Ziegler's voice is missing. GRTC in-house recordings are replacing her. "Well, there goes my legacy," says Ziegler, who's actually working on a play about her experience as the "bus voice lady." Though she'll miss telling people where to get off, she adds, "My city-dwelling son will not miss his mother's voice assaulting him from every opening door."