A brand new mid-sized bus is sliding through Victoria’s streets for the next couple of weeks. Known as a MiDi bus, this slimmer, shorter bus has been gliding along Victoria Transit’s #3 route, collecting feedback from both drivers and passengers. Built in the U.K. by Alexander Dennis Limited buses, in conjunction with New Flyer buses in Winnipeg, the MiDi offers something that B.C. Transit doesn’t have.
Being narrower and five feet shorter than the average 40-foot bus makes the MiDi more appropriate for certain routes. Aaron Lamb, B.C. Transit’s executive director of asset management, described it as a more neighbourhood-friendly bus. It’s quieter, and “30 per cent lighter,” said Lamb, compared to the 40-foot buses. Because of this and its thin design, Lamb said, “They can actually go around corners and fit in between cars that are parked along the side of the street a heck of a lot easier . . . It’s like comparing a Cadillac to a Toyota Tercel. If you only need a Toyota Tercel, then it’s more efficient to operate.”
When compared to the smaller Arboc buses used on community routes or with the handyDART system, Lamb said the MiDi’s “rear wheel is behind you… There’s no hood to look at. The driver has much better visibility. Much more preferable for that spot-and-go type transit.”
This bus will be in Victoria until mid-March, and then it’ll be moved to the inland where it will visit two different locations to get full range of environments. Although B.C. Transit is only kicking the MiDi’s tires right now, New Flyer is going to manufacture its own MiDis in the near future. As of now, B.C. Transit is just putting the MiDi through its paces for New Flyer.
“New flyer isn’t charging us a thing for it,” said Lamb. “We’re paying for the gas and the preventative maintenance . . . but that’s about it.” This is because B.C.’s climate is perfect for letting a bus see a range of environments. When the trial is up at the end of April, the bus will go back to New Flyer where it could be sent to another transit agency, or it could become a demonstrator.
The oldest buses in Victoria’s fleet were made in 1994. Buses usually have a 20-year life span; logically, the entire fleet has an average age of 10 years. In those 20 years, a bus will rack up an impressive number of kilometres. Lamb said one bus had 1.2–1.5 million kilometres on its odometer.
The reception of the new MiDi has been overall positive, but there is an issue of turning radius for mobility aids in the bus’s interior. This is something that Lamb says could easily be fixed if B.C. Transit were to purchase a MiDi in the future. “We have this really small community of people who are really crazy about buses,” said Meribeth Burton, B.C. Transit’s corporate spokesperson, “People who’ve been in it think it’s beautiful.”
Burton added, “People have travelled over from the lower mainland to come and ride in it on the weekends.” For those self-proclaimed “bus people” out there, the MiDi will run six days a week on the number three route until mid-March.