Auburn students will soon be riding to and from campus with added comfort and convenience. The University's Tiger Transit system is set to receive a facelift in the form of an entirely new fleet of buses slated to arrive on The Plains beginning at the end of May.
Ten hybrid-electric buses and 60 new fuel-efficient diesel buses will fully replace the existing fleet, which has been in operation on campus for eight years, according to Don Andrae, director of Auburn University's Transportation Services.
"[The hybrid-electric buses] will look a whole lot different because they're more city-type buses," Andrae said. "They'll have all inward-facing seats and every seat will have a USB charger. There'll be WiFi on the buses."
Andrae said Transportation Services employees will be traveling to Livermore, California, next month to watch the first of the diesel Tiger Transit buses roll off the line at the headquarters of Gillig, a bus designing and manufacturing company. From there, 56 of the diesel buses will be driven cross-country to Auburn.
"You can't get a better testing than that," he joked. "It won't impact our warranty but we'll definitely know if the buses work by the time they get here."
The 10 hybrid-electric buses as well as four shorter buses used for certain routes will have a much shorter journey, traveling from bus manufacturer New Flyer's regional plant in Anniston, Alabama, Andrae said.
The bodies of all the buses in the new fleet will be sporting characteristically Auburn designs. Each navy blue, burnt orange and white bus will include a decal of Aubie peering from a back window, a tiger tail decal on the back end of the buses and the interlocking AU logo on the sides of the buses.
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Andrae said the new buses will do away with outer advertisements as to preserve the overall appeal of the designs, but University offices and departments will have the opportunity to advertisement inside above passengers' seats.
Some of the diesel buses will be similar in layout to the existing Tiger Transit buses being retired, but others will be city-style buses with two passenger doors for entry and exit as well as increased standing capacity which Andrae said should reduce passenger congestion on busy mornings as students have had to wait for others to exit the bus before entering with current Tiger Transit buses.
"The seating capacities are two or three less because [seats] are all inward-facing," he said. "[Because] they're city-type buses, they're wider; for standing capacity, you can probably get about 10-12 more [people] on each bus. Early in the morning when you have the big rush, there'll be people standing which is OK, but there'll be a front and back door which is good because if you can get people trained properly they'll all go out the back door."
Andrae said he expects most of the new fleet to last at least 12 years. The hybrid-electric buses will conserve fuel through geofencing technology, running on a battery charge when on campus property and diesel when driving around the city, he said.
"When they ... sit there idling in that Heisman [Drive] loop, you won't hear them, you won't see them, you won't smell them," Andrae said. "We wanted to go to total electric buses, but the charging stations for those [are] almost a million dollars, plus they cost another $200,000 apiece per bus."
The University will own the entirety of the new fleet in full, as opposed to the existing fleet which it leases from First Transit, he said.
Andrae said the fuel-efficient diesel buses will also have a reduction in noise because of their design. He said he hopes students find the new Tiger Transit fleet to be a considerable upgrade to what the University offers at present.
"I think with the new buses ... we're going to offer students a real good alternative to trying to drive on campus and park your car," Andrae said.
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