Around the first of the year, engineers ran into a problem with the ramp leading out of Valley Regional Transit’s underground bus station on Main Street between 8th Street and Capitol Boulevard.
It was too steep for 21 of the buses in the public transportation authority’s fleet. About the time the ramp was poured, staff members found that the bottoms of these buses measured a few inches closer to the ground than that model’s factory specifications called for, Valley Regional Transit executive director Kelli Fairless said.
The problem arose because the people who designed the ramp were working off factory specifications, not the actual dimensions of the buses in operation here.
Based on the buses’ dimensions and the incline of the ramp, engineers calculated the back end of the buses might scrape the bus station floor as they started up the ramp. No one actually drove the buses up the ramp, Fairless said.
Digging deeper, Fairless said, Valley Regional Transit staffers discovered an assembly made of a skid plate and drag hooks attached to the undercarriages of the buses behind the rear wheels. Factory specifications didn’t account for these assemblies, and the transit authority’s staffers didn’t know they were in place when they gave the ramp designers the bus dimensions.
It’s unclear how these assemblies came to be included on Valley Regional Transit’s buses. Fairless said it’s possible the person who oversaw the bus purchases, acting out of an abundance of caution, wanted an extra layer of protection for the bus engines. But she wasn’t sure, because that person has since left Valley Regional Transit — possibly explaining why no one at the agency knew about the undercarriage assemblies.
Fairless wouldn’t say why the person left, but she said it had nothing to do with the Main Street Station ramp problem.
Fairless said the skid plate and drag hooks weren’t necessary. To fix the ramp problem, she said, Valley Regional Transit has begun removing the assemblies from the buses. About a half-dozen adjustments have been done so far, she said, and the rest will be done in the next few months before this summer’s opening of Main Street Station.
“There’s no compromise in terms of safety because we had already (checked the specifications of) the bus without those in the first place,” Fairless said. There’s no significant cost to removing the undercarriage assemblies because Valley Regional Transit’s own mechanics can do it, she saud.