Friday, October 24, 2008

Transport: New Flyer Memories

TTC New Flyer D40-89 #6457 worked the 55 Warren Park service on Dundas Street in Toronto on 23-October-2008

TORONTO, ONTARIO - I did a double-take during the afternoon rush hour yesterday. Traveling down Jane Street was TTC bus #6457--a New Flyer D40-89. The coach was running on the 55 Warren Park service, which runs from the Jane subway station to the old Lambton Mills neighborhood, mostly via Jane Street and Dundas Street, and requires only a single bus to handle the run.

It had been months since I had seen a New Flyer in this service. As of April, there were about 40 such New Flyers in operation (of a fleet of nearly 100 that existed when I moved here in 2006), and the fleet has clearly declined further since then as more of the modern Orion VII hybrids enter service. It was clear that this might be the last time I see one in my neighborhood.

The New Flyer D40-88's and D40-89's (which is to say, a 40-foot, diesel-powered bus built by New Flyer in either 1988 or 1989 as described on the Transit Toronto web site) had been in the 112 West Mall service when I first started commuting to work in Toronto, along with the similar Orion V's. It was the New Flyers that captivated me, though, because they reminded me of the first transit buses that I remember riding.

The connection I made wasn't crazy. In 1979 and 1980, Metro Transit (which at the time ran essentially all bus service in King County around Seattle) purchased 224 Flyer D10240C's, a predecessor of the New Flyers that the TTC acquired a decade later. Numbered 1600-1823, these 40-foot coaches took over the 226 route between Bellevue and Seattle. It would be these buses, later also operating on the 235 route that ran right by my house, that would provide my earliest memories of taking the bus into Seattle, and would dominate all transit service that I took during high school on the Eastside of Lake Washington. Flyer D10240C's played a significant transportation role in my life. They were retired in 1996 and 1997, after I had left the region, as documented on Busdude's web site. One, the 1675, was preserved by the Metro Employees Historical Vehicle Association.

The New Flyer D40's in the TTC fleet were strongly reminiscent of Metro Flyers in a variety of details, from the style of grating used on the heaters to the shape of the panel behind the driver. Sure, the TTC buses had different seats (the TTC standard) and the rear doors opened when one stepped on them which the doors in the Metro buses never did, but my commute on the 112C West Mall bus was somewhat like re-living my youth every time a New Flyer appeared. Besides the nostalgia value, I also found that the New Flyers rattled a lot less than the Orion V's, which I came to dread.

One of the few remaining GM/MCI "Classics", TTC #6272, dead-headed down St. Clair Avenue on 6-October-2008

By the time my job on the 112C route ended, Orion VII's were already starting to encroach on the New Flyers, and they will probably all be gone by end of this year. The new hybrid Orion VII's buses are leading to retirement of all pre-1990 buses except the rebuilt "Fishbowls"; I was pleasantly surprised to catch a MCI classic running down St. Clair earlier this month as they will soon be gone as well.

With the New Flyers disappearing, a piece of my childhood is disappearing, and for that reason it was nice to catch one last coach in service.

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