Whistler is now home to four new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses, the first to be rolled out across BC Transit’s network that include full protective driver doors.
The adjustable glass partition is intended to cut back on the number of assaults against drivers, which have remained relatively flat over the past five years, explained BC Transit’s director of safety, John Palmer.
“Whistler is not immune to that, but this program is not specific to Whistler. This is a fleet-wide initiative; everyone is getting them, including Vancouver,” he said, adding that it will take two years to retrofit the entire BC Transit fleet.
Palmer said the doors are “designed to protect the operator from the attack from the rear, that person leaving the bus who decides they’re going to throw a coffee on the driver or, God forbid, spit on them.”
He’s also confident the added protection won’t negatively affect driver-rider interactions.
“That was a big thing we heard from the drivers: ‘Please don’t impact our ability to communicate with our customers,’” he said.
The other new features are mostly ergonomic, and include things like brighter, white LED destination lights for better visibility, improved interior lighting, heated convex driver mirrors, and new bike racks with wider tire holders “so that larger mountain bikes—as you guys are familiar with in Whistler—can fit easier,” explained Ryan Drake, BC Transit project manager.
The four new vehicles, two of which are replacing others in the fleet, represent an investment of $2.8 million, costs shared by the federal government, the province and the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
“Getting cars off the road and people onto transit is a key focus of our Community Energy and Climate Action Plan,” said Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton in a statement. “Four more buses in Whistler will help provide a level of service that gets people where they need to go as efficiently as possible, making transit a viable choice in our community.”
The new 12-metre-long XN40 Xcelsior New Flyer buses can carry 35 seated passengers and 46 standing passengers.
Whistler Transit launched its 100-per-cent CNG fleet in January 2018. The new buses bring Whistler’s fleet to 31 vehicles.