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A new classic city bus?

August 23, 2011

This ain’t ever going to happen, so I might as well drop this idea off here:

What is New York City without those old green “fishbowl” buses (GMC T6H 5300 series, with slanted windows, and round windshield earning it the nickname) with the illuminated ads on the sides (Bus-O-Rama, and nicknamed “Bat Wings”), that you see in old films and TV shows like Shaft or Odd Couple? (They always reminded me of Batman’s ears as you would look at the bus head-on, approaching! Also, those silly patches of hair Dilbert’s boss has sticking up in the sides also reminds me of that).

Bus design has come a long way, since my parents dragged me onto the B41 and others heading downtown or to the Kings Plaza mall shopping, or to Grandma’s [i.e. maternal] in the 70’s. Most of the new stuff does not interest me (And even the familiar old Detroit Diesel two stroke engines have now all been replaced by ubiquitous sounding four stroke or hybrid models, so a bus does not even sound like a bus anymore!) The North American Bus Industries (NABI) a few years ago introduced this new model called the “CompoBus”. The 45 foot model had this modern, yet classic looking design, which due to the curvature of the sides, actually evoked the image of the old fishbowls! I and a few other transit fans had hoped MTA NYC Transit would get some of these, to create a new “classic New York City Bus” look, as the futuristic RTS model that had taken over (the “Advanced Bus Design”, where the windows ARE the walls!) was always more an airport shuttle style novelty to me. But MTA does not seem to be interested in NABI products. For one things, this one piece composite design probably wouldn’t hold up on tough NYC streets anyway. Then, the COMPO ceased production, and thus remains a primarily southwestern US novelty (LA Metro’s look nice, with the red and silver). However, the model apparently has gone back into production, and there for a time was word that the GoBus service between Newark and Irvington would get 15 of them, bringing the model to the NYC area! However, this fell through, and another NABI model was ordered instead.

We also would from time to time reminisce about the old “Bat wings”. Taxi cabs still have their lit ads on top (and have added LED and LCD ones, which show sports scores and ads and stuff), and it seemed the ads on the taxis and buses went together in that classic “Manhattan at evening” experience. So to me, the Compo would have been the only one that would have looked decent with the wings. Other buses are too boxy, or the windows (like on the RTS) are too big not leaving both space between them and the roofline.

So I used this photo, (Of one in a Phoenix color scheme) which was done in silver and green similar to the buses before MTA went with blue, and added the wings copied from an old fishbowl picture. (along with new full color LED signs to reflect the route color, which appear on buses in other places, but the MTA rejected in my employee suggestion because the sign programs would not have the capacity for them). Looks so natural, doesn’t it! We can dream, can’t we!
(BTW, the one “wing” bus in the TA’s Museum fleet, right over my way at the Fresh Pond Depot, has the classic “Chorus Line” ad on it, which was a familiar sight, both on the buses, and TV ads. And now, “Chorus Line” has recently returned to Broadway!)

What we did get was a few of the Flyer articulated buses with RGB LED ads on the side below the windows.

These are about as flat as the old framed ads before they went with adhesive strips. All they need is to come up with a smaller sign like that for above the windows!

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