The Metro Regional Transit Authority hopes the problems of traffic congestion on its busiest routes will take a turn for the better in August.
Bendybuses are coming to Akron.
Technically, they are called “articulated,” but most people say they look like two buses connected by an accordion. When the 60-footer goes around a curve, it bends in the middle.
Metro doesn’t even know what to call the buses but promises a loud marketing plan to get the public ready for their introduction Aug. 25. Bendybus is a casual term used in other communities.
The six buses cost $750,000 each with the federal government subsidizing 80 percent of the figure.
Bendybuses offer several advantages.
They carry more passengers: 54 seated and 44 standing compared with the 39 seated and 10 standing in the 40-foot standard buses Metro runs now.
Because they bend in the middle, they drive like a 30-foot vehicle, especially on the right turns that often challenge the drivers of big vehicles.
“Half of this bus is just 30 feet and the other half just follows along,” said David Sanzone, Metro’s operations trainer.
Sanzone leads the team that will train Metro’s 220 drivers. If you see one driving around the next couple of weeks, it probably will show a “Not in Service” sign.
The plan is to start using them on the system’s busiest routes during rush hours. Route 1 uses West Market Street to get to and from downtown. Route 2 uses Arlington Street and Arlington Road. Each of those routes handles more than 160,000 riders a year.
Sanzone said it’s easy to drive but slightly different.
Because they are longer, they will need more time to stop.
The compressed natural gas engine sits in the back, and the vehicle uses rear-wheel drive, so operating in the snow takes special care, according to Richard Enty, Metro’s executive director.
He said drivers in other communities found the rear can “sashay” if drivers are not careful.
Akron will be the second system in Ohio to use the buses, after Cleveland, where Enty formerly worked.
Passengers will continue to enter at the front of the bus so riders can show their passes. There are additional doors in the middle and back of the bus for leaving.
Sanzone said riders must learn to hold on as they move to the back.
“It’s a long distance,” he said. “An operator can’t wait until everyone gets seated.”
He also expects riders to be interested in the middle section where the vehicle flexes as it turns. The floor there moves as the bus twists.
“I’m eager to see what people do with the bendy part of it because I think they are going to want to stand in it so they can feel the twist,” he said.
That section includes special rails, but no seats.
The bus also has some unusual seats that are considerably higher because they are over the middle wheels.
Sanzone said some bus stops are being adjusted so the back end of the longer bus does not block an intersection.
Driver training has begun with mixed responses.
“Some of them are real excited; they can’t wait for the training to get started, [saying,] ‘I want to get on that thing,’ ” Sanzone said. “Others say, ‘I don’t want to drive it.’ ”
The new vehicles are the length of four regular cars, so Sanzone has special advice for them, too.
“Stay out of the way,” he said, as if in jest. “One thing that car drivers would need to know is that because of the 60 feet it may be deceiving and it takes longer to get through an intersection.”
The Rev. Tommy Atkins of Akron was at the Pfaff Transit Center last week and saw one of the bendybuses out for a spin. He was impressed.
“This amazes me that you have something like this in Akron,” he said.
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Scott on Twitter at Davescottofakro.