Commute like the British do: on a double-decker bus

EVERETT – Don’t call it a double-decker bus.

It’s a double tall, and that’s no latte.

Community Transit this week plans to introduce into its commuter service a new double-decker bus, a style popular in Great Britain.

The agency plans to test the bus for a year, running it on as many of its commuter routes as possible before deciding whether to add a few to its fleet.

Community Transit chief Joyce Olson has jokingly asked her employees to call the bus a Double Tall.

That’s exactly what Greg Lissner plans to do.

“She’s the boss,” he said.

Lissner is a quality service monitor who has driven the new rig for several hours. He’s teaching other bus drivers how to handle it.

“This is a dream to drive,” Lissner said. “It handles beautifully.”

The manufacturer of the bus told him to take it out for a spin.

Literally.

“I did some doughnuts out there,” Lissner said. He was going slowly when the manufacturer’s representative urged him to step on it.

“He said floor it,” Lissner said.

The idea was to prove to the drivers that the bus is stable despite its height.

“It does not lean a bit,” Lissner said.

The bus is designed so that 75 percent of the weight sits in the bottom 4 feet of the bus, said Rob Montgomery, manager of technical support services and training for Alexander Dennis Inc., the bus builder.

The bus is 14 feet tall, short enough to clear bridges but tall enough that some tree pruning has had to be done on the routes that the bus will take, Lissner said. Standard buses are 10 feet tall.

Double Tall is scheduled to start service on Commuter Route 402 from Lynnwood to Seattle on Wednesday, he said. The agency is scheduled to hold a ceremony introducing the new bus Tuesday.

It will cost Community Transit about $650,000 to buy a double-decker bus. A normal bus costs about $580,000. Leasing this one will cost $15,000 per month for a year, said Tom Pearce, a spokesman for the agency.

The 40-foot-long bus can carry double the number of passengers of a typical bus and is easier to handle and smaller in traffic than an articulated bus, Pearce said.

“Watch your head,” he said while showing off the bus Friday.

The first level feels short. It’s about 6 feet, 5 inches tall. The ceiling in the upper level is just 5 feet, 8 inches above the floor.

Pearce, a tall guy, had to stoop as he walked up to the front of the bus, which offered a view high above traffic.

“The idea is you come up and sit down,” Pearce said. “The view is spectacular.”

As a bonus, the seats recline and the head rests come up. There’s also lots of leg room, a must because the bus will be used on commuter routes.

“Yeah, we know the headroom upstairs is low,” Montgomery said a few minutes later. “You don’t stand up in your car.”

In England, most bridges are 16 feet or taller, allowing for bigger buses there. Not so here, where most bridges are a bit taller than 14 feet.

So if you ride Double Tall, head upstairs, get to the front row and keep your head down.

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