So the question pertains to how my adventure began by finding that lone 30-foot bus. It actually began like a typical day, and I was getting ready for a class at SJSU. Although I ended up coming in late, I did manage to get some lecture time from one of my imstructors before attempting to solve the problem. At the end of my class, I went to go get my lunch at a downtown San Jose Chinese fast food eatery. I then went inside the garage and drove my hybrid to Ohlone-Chynoweth light rail (LR) station. I sat on a bench for about 20 minutes eating my lunch to find out if VTA line 13 was the one with that 30-foot bus - which it turned out to be only an older community bus.
And Ohlone-Chynoweth was just my starting point of what turned out to be a timed scavenger hunt for that new 30-foot bus that was numbered 4101. I took an Alum Rock-bound light rail to Convention Center Station and almost immediately transferred to the free DASH shuttle, which was three minutes later. I kept an eye on line 65 to see if they were the ones that appeared with that new 30-foot bus. But it turned out that it was not true, and so is my scavenger hunt.
I decided to quickly dash myself to the Winchester LR platform to wait for that train to take me to the end of the line, and my new iPad Air was part of the marathon with pictures to show proof that I was there. However, it took me over 20 minutes to get the next Winchester-bound train to appear. But it turns out that the train was my very lucky lead-in. I witnessed two community buses going to Los Gatos. But neither of those buses were that 30-foot bus that I was looking for.
So my chances were running out quickly and fast as the afternoon progressed. I tried to make guesses of all the possible community bus routes. Lines 13 and 65 were out of the question. Lines 14, 17, 18, and 19 are all located in Gilroy (line 18 goes to Gavilan College), and line 16 serves Morgan Hill's Live Oak and Sobrato High Schools only in the morning and mid-afternoons on weekdays; for those routes, I would have travelled 20-35 miles on the freeway from Ohlone-Chynoweth station. Lines 32 and 34 were possible to get to, but that was far from Ohlone-Chynoweth. Line 39 only goes from Eastrdge to The Villages, a residential neighborhood in the Evergreen District of San Jose, but I would be wasting 10 miles of fuel driving to the east side of San Jose. Line 42 only goes from Santa Teresa LR and Evergreen Valley College, which would have been another time-waster. I also looked at line 45, but that route goes through the north-east side of San Jose between Alum Rock and Penetencia Creek LR stations serving the Alum Rock neighborhood. Line 88 with all variants was not even feasible at all to go to as it serves Palo Alto, and no LR stations serve Palo Alto.
I remained vigilant until the miracle happened. Route 37 was likely the only choice since I needed to get back to Ohlone-Chynoweth and prep for my other assignment requested by my instructor. The route in the West Valley College direction was not the one that I wanted, and not the 30-foot bus. Five minutes later, at 1:24pm, the 30-foot bus pulled up to the Winchester LR station and it was headed in the Capitol LR direction. Taking advantage of both the transfer at Capitol LR station and the 30-foot bus, I quickly pulled out my iPad to take a quick picture. My first ever ride on VTA's new Gillig 30-foot bus was a success, which my only fare that I paid was an SJSU EcoPass (that, along with Clipper card fare, translates into a valid pass as defined by VTA, which in turn translates into "no cash fare needed").
Most of the riders on the new bus were riding home from West Valley College, but VTA was for the most part unaware that there was an SJSU student as well. To show proof that I was actually on the bus, I decided to take a few timelapse videos and a couple more regular videos (all 15-seconds; timelapse video was 3 minutes long, but fast forwarded to make it 15-seconds long; all in HD format) from my iPad showing that I was on the scene and on the bus between Winchester and Capitol LR stations.
So what was the ride like inside and outside the bus from my vantage point? The bus is 30 feet long, manufactured by the Gillig Corporation based near one of three AC Transit's bus yards in Hayward. The inside of the bus seats 26 passengers, plus 12 "hand holders" and several poles to let riders hold on to in case all the seats are taken. There is only one door for entry and exit, plus windows in case of emergencies, which is similar to the current 40-foot express buses manufactured by the same company (VTA's express buses have more seats, however). On the outside, the 30-foot buses are designed in a similar way to what SamTrans currently employs on their hybrid buses by comparing the front of the bus, through their "Hybrid Power" labeling instead of "Hybrid". It anyone really wanted to know how VTA purchased most of their buses, my only hint is that I've learned for myself that they really only need to travel 25 miles from their main headquarters!
And finally, what did I think of the driver that drove the new VTA 30-foot bus? I thought that she was very patient on the roads, and well-knowledgeable driver. While on the bus, I did see another bus in the same route headed to Capitol LR that had to drop off a wheelchair passenger at Almaden Expressway and Foxworthy Avenue. That bus may have been a bit behind schedule due to their bus specifications. At the end of my ride, I did give a thumbs up to thank her for inviting me on board the new 30-foot bus! So therefore, I do happily look forward to riding more of the 30-foot hybrid buses whenever the ride on transit requires riding on one.
Original Work: Kyle Chak
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