Jordan Wilson saw the No. 70 Grand Line’s capacity issues firsthand.
The north St. Louis County resident is a regular rider on Metro’s buses. When he rode the Grand Boulevard line, it was filled to the brim.
“I can see that it’s already packed, and the need is already there,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s experience isn’t uncommon. With more than 9,000 passengers riding every day, the Grand Line is often so crowded that people can’t get on when a bus arrives. That’s why Metro purchased 60-foot articulated buses, which should increase capacity by around 25 percent. Seven of the buses will start serving the Grand Line on Monday.
“Not only will it be more comfortable for them to ride it. It will offer extra capacity so we can actually attract more people to the system,” said Metro CEO John Nations. “So a lot of people who now do not have the ability to get on it will have the ability to get on it. It’s another opportunity for them to ride public transit."
Metro purchased 15 used articulated buses for $6.4 million. Each bus went through a thorough restoration -- from the wiring to the engines.
Each articulated bus has 54 seats and more room for standing passengers. Currently, Metro's largest bus has 40 seats.
“More than anything else, it represents an improvement in the transit product for the people who need it,” said Metro chief operating officer Ray Friem. “People have been telling us we need more service on Grand. We need better service on Grand. And this is our response to that.”
Two of the articulated buses were parked near midtown for a press conference. And after getting a good look at them, St. Louis resident Grover McKinney called the vehicles “unique.”
But McKinney added the new buses did present an obvious question:
“What I’m tripping on is, if they’ve got to make a turn … how they’re going to make the turn?” said McKinney, a regular rider of the Grand Boulevard Line. “That’s a long fella there, you know what I mean?”
Nations said Metro’s drivers have told him that longer buses are “not difficult to drive.”
“As a matter of fact, they like driving them,” Nations said. “So they can add more capacity, which means more happy passengers. And at the same time, the way the bus is actually constructed, it turns the corner just like a regular bus would.
“As matter of fact, the drivers were telling me it was neat to be trained in them,” he added. “They’re looking forward to driving them.”
Fifteen articulated buses are expected to be on the Grand route by the end of the year. Wilson hopes that they catch on.
“I wish them good luck. I’d like to see them on other routes too. But then again, we’ll have to see how they do on this route first,” Wilson said. “Because the Grand Line is everything.”