DDOT #3200's:
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
SMART paint scheme of white  with red and orange
striping.  The coaches were numbered

Meanwhile — around  this  same  period — the  
SMART  bus
system  found  itself  facing  a  major  financial  crisis.  A  
 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,
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

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-
 coaches (#3290–3299) were delivered in
June, 1997.  These new coaches (model
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
(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
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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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
#3200-series fleet.
(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
Michigan Department of Transportation for nearly $7
."  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
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)
D-DOT #3200-SERIES FLEET UPDATE!! ...The last seven remaining "RTS" coaches that were left from that original SMART (1995) NovaBUS order (coaches #32003232) were retired by DDOT during the Fall of 2008..... Only thirty-eight (38) of the remaining #3200-series fleet (those delivered in 1997) are on the DDOT Active Fleet Roster as of January, 2009.
"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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