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Island Transit buys 3 new buses

A rider steps off one of the three new Island Transit buses at Bayview. The most distinguishing feature of the new vehicles is the route signs, which are orange LED displays. - Jon Jensen
A rider steps off one of the three new Island Transit buses at Bayview. The most distinguishing feature of the new vehicles is the route signs, which are orange LED displays.
— image credit: Jon Jensen

Island Transit has some new wheels, but they look a lot like the old ones.

Three new buses hit the road on Whidbey Island in the past couple of weeks, but it takes some familiarity with Island Transit to spot them. The tipoff is the route sign. The older buses have green signs with white letters lit softly from behind or above, while the new ones have bright orange LED displays.

The new buses are the 35-foot-long, 35-passenger models that are the largest in Island Transit's fleet. Manufactured by Gillig in Hayward, Calif. -- the same company that made several buses Island Transit already owns -- the new buses replace three 1987 models that each have nearly 1 million miles on their odometers. Like the old buses, the new ones have diesel engines.

Sandy Rubini of Island Transit said the agency purchased the buses for $827,270, or about $275,750 each. Island Transit made the purchase with federal grant money.

Many of the differences between the old and new buses are apparent only to the men and women who drive them.

"They do handle really well," said bus driver Carol Illingworth. "They're a treat to drive. They feel good."

She said the cockpits on the buses are designed with the driver's convenience in mind. She said she appreciates the electric windshield wipers on the new buses, noting that the air-powered ones on the old buses are inconsistent and don't move at the same speed. The way the wipers seem to flail about on the older models has entertained small children during rainy-day trips, Illingworth said.

The interiors also are nearly identical to the buses they're replacing. The primary difference is that the seat backs are padded in the new buses, making them more comfortable.

Riders also will notice something familiar to anyone with a new vehicle -- even buses have that "new car" smell.

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