THOSE FORMER SMART
Are you aware of the fact that the entire former DDOT #3200-series
NovaBUS "RTS" fleet had initiallly been part of a suburban SMART
coach order later diverted to DDOT?
During the months of May and June of 1995, NovaBUS Inc.
delivered a fleet of sixty-five new "RTS" coaches (model
T80-206) to SMART (Suburban Mobility Authority for
Regional Transportation) — which operates this region's
suburban bus system. The new fleet arrived sporting the
standard SMART paint scheme of white with red and orange
striping. The coaches were numbered #9501-9565.
Meanwhile — around this same period — the SMART bus
system found itself facing a major financial crisis. A $20
million deficit projected in 1994 had forced the agency
to seek a three-year 0.33-mil property tax from "suburban"
residents in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. During
its millage campaign to secure property tax funding, SMART
promised to restructure its operation and to eliminate the
debt over the next five years. The millage campaign was a
success and the new tax levy was approved by most of the tri-
county jurisdictions in 1995.
|DDOT "RTS" coaches #3200-3232 were originally SMART coaches
#9533-9565. They were delivered to DDOT in August of 1995.
(Photo courtesy of retired DDOT Operator Lamont Jackson)
In August of 1995, the thirty-three unused buses from that SMART order (#9533-9565) arrived at DDOT, still sporting
their original SMART colors and numbers. The buses were then repainted and renumbered at the DDOT Shoemaker
Coach Rehabilitation Center, where they were transformed into what we know today as DDOT bus fleet #3200-3232.
These would become the first fleet of "RTS" buses
to be delivered to DDOT since 1980, and the first
RTSs to arrive after DDOT management vowed
during the mid-1980s to no longer purchase what
they deemed problem prone designed buses.
A later SMART coach order option for additional
buses had also been diverted to DDOT. These
would arrive two years later, already sporting the
DDOT colors. These thirty-three buses would also
become part of the DDOT #3200-series fleet, and
were numbered #3250-3282. They were delivered
between April and May of 1997, and were identical
to the original fleet. (An earlier 100-coach order —
built under DDOT specifications and numbered
#3500-3599 — were already delivered between
November 1996 and January 1997)
An additional ten Nova BUS RTS "suburban-
edition" coaches (#3290–3299) were delivered in
June, 1997. These new coaches (model T80-206S)
came equipped with forward-facing adjustable "high-
back" passenger seats and over-head storage
racks. In the beginning, these coaches were used
for exclusive suburban Park-and-Ride bus service
— transporting GM employees from Sashabaw
Road (north-west of Pontiac in Independence Twp–
some thirty miles out-side the city limits) to the new
General Motors Global Headquarters, located in the
Renaissance Center in Downtown Detroit.
During the middle of 2007, the first fleet of #3200s
reached their twelve-year eligibility for retirement.
The remainder of the fleet (#3250 onward) will
probably be with us until the middle of 2009.
|These three photos show a number of former SMART #9500 series |
"RTS" coaches lined up at the Shoemaker Terminal and undergoing
their new paint scheme and coach numbers.
(Photos courtesy of retired DDOT Operator Lamont Jackson)
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© 2006 (PAGE LAST MODIFIED ON 11-25-07)
|D-DOT "RTS" #3200-SERIES INTERIOR PHOTOS|
|Two different interiors are found on the #3200-series "RTS" coaches|
The top photo (center) shows the basic transit style seating arrangement that came with
the first two fleet deliveries.
The last ten "suburban-edition" #3200's came equipped with forward-facing adjustable
passenger seats and over-head storage racks (left photo).
The third photo (right) shows a view of the driver's compartment area of the DDOT
(All photos courtesy of DDOT Operator Tony Green)
(Click-on the above photos to view larger image)
However, during that millage campaign (and even during years prior), the SMART system had come under criticism
from a number of suburban politicians and voters who chastised the agency for operating the large and "rarely filled"
40-foot coaches through their communities. While the promised restructuring of the system would include cutting back
some service into Detroit and adding more trips within the suburbs, the agency also promised to begin moving toward
the use of small size coaches — a move which many felt was more to appease their suburban critics.
Meanwhile, an impending SMART coach order for additional fleets of 40-foot long RTS coaches over the next few
years just didn't seem to fit well into the agency's long-term restructuring plans. The first sixty-five coaches were due
to be delivered that same year. After the coaches arrived in June, only thirty-two of the new buses (#9501-9532) were
|DDOT coach #3263 — seen here standing-by in Times Square and awaiting extra-service — is representative of the
second fleet of #3200-series RTS coaches (#3250-3282) that began arriving in April of 1997. These coaches were
the result of a SMART option for new coaches later diverted to DDOT. Although built to the same SMART
specifications as the original 1995 fleet, these coaches would arrive already sporting their DDOT colors.
(Photo courtesy of Detroit Mike's photos on DDOT buses – shared online at Flickr)
placed into service. SMART management had already decided
that the remaining thirty-three new buses should be sold.
According to a Wednesday, Nov. 29, 1995, Detroit Free Press
article, "SMART sold 33 (of its new) 40-foot buses in June to
the Michigan Department of Transportation for nearly $7
million." SMART used that money to purchase 86 new 29-foot,
22-passenger, mini-buses, built by Champion Motor Coach of
Imlay City, MI. The smaller-size Champions were to be used
on the less heavily traveled suburb-to-suburb routes.
Meanwhile, arrangements were made with the City of Detroit to
purchase the unused SMART coaches — while a SMART
option to purchase additional fleets of RTS coaches from Nova
BUS would also be diverted to the city-owned DDOT system.
|SMART was able to use the money from the sale of its unused
#9500-series RTSs to purchase 86 small-size Champion buses.
(Photo courtesy of M. Koprowicz collection)
|"High-back" coach #3299 (the last in the #3200 series) was
still hanging in there after nearly ten years of service when
photographed at the DDOT Gilbert Terminal back in 2006.
(Photo courtesy of DDOT Operator Tony Green)
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