Convention Report

The Fall 1999 Convention of the Motor Bus Society took place over the weekend of October 9th and 10th. Hotel headquarters was the Quality Inn Plaza on International Drive, three blocks from the Orange County Convection Center.

Transportation for the property tours was supplied by Coach USA, through the courtesy of Orlando President Jay Kaplan. Forty-five foot Van Hool T-2145 bus No. 43280 was provided on both days. Its 57 seat capacity was more than adequate for the nearly 50 attendees of the meeting.

Saturday: The Saturday garage tour was concentrated on the four major transit operators that are located to the west of Orlando. Lakeland: The first stop was at the Lakeland Area Mass Transit District, which is operated as The Citrus Connection. Steve Githen, Director of Transportation met the group and provided a brief history of the operation. The group then view and photographed LAMTD's fleet of 34 buses, including 20 Orion I's, three Orion V's and six GMC RTS 04's. New on the property were five 35' Gillig low floor buses. Being influenced by nearby Orlando, Lakeland's fleet is painted in a rainbow of colors. Tampa: The next stop was at the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, marketed as HARTline. Transit Supervisor Pete Mikkos headed the tour of the HART bus facility, and described the bus operations (including rubber tired trolleys) and the regional light rail line that is now in the planning stage. Attendees photographed the varied fleet of nearly 200 buses. Included were 14 40'Grumman Flxibles, 75 35' and 40' Flxible Metros, 20 GMC T80-604 and 15 T80-606 RTS's, three Orion II's, 53 Gilligs, including ten 30' and 27 35" Phantoms and 16 35' low floor models, five Bluebird Q-2903's, seven Champions, and four Trackless Trolleys replicas. Supervisor Mikkos directed the group to its lunch stop at the University Mall, and provided an escort to the University Transit Center, the Northern Transit Center and the downtown transit mall/street. Clearwater: The third stop was at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, which is a consolidation of the former Central Pinellas Transit Authority and the St. Peterburg Municipal Transit System. Executive Director Roger Snoble had arranged for our visit and had put together a nice handout that included a history of transit in Pinellas County. Attendees viewed the operating and maintenance facilities and photographed most of the 166 bus PSTA fleet, which consists of 36 35' Flxible Metros, ten Orion I's, 32 35' Gillig Phantoms, eight 40' Gillig low floor buses, 19 40', 35 35' and 10 30' New Flyer low floor buses, eight GMC T8J-604 RTS buses in the contingency fleet and eight trolley replica buses. Sarasota: The final stop for the day was at Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT). Operations Manager Hank Cusack hosted the visit and explained that the bus service is operated as a part of Sarasota County's Department of Public Works. A very nice handout including schedule book and notebook was given to the attendees. The group inspected the operations offices and photographed SCAT's 37 bus fleet, which includes 16 Orion I's and seven Orion V's, plus 12 35' Gillig Phantoms and two Champion cutaways. SCAT's historic GMC TDH-4519 bus No. 6403 (ex-St. Peterburg 1125) was to leave the property for rehabilitation, but its departure was delayed until after the MBS visit.

Semi-Annual Meetings: Because there were no meeting rooms available at the Quality Inn, the Fall 1999 MBS Business Meeting was held on board the tour bus en route from Sarasota to Orlando. The meeting was presided over by President Charlie Sullivan. Charlie announced that he would like to hear from any member who is interested in any of the existing offices of the Society. Interested parties were asked to contact Charlie. Vice President-Conventions, Jerry Squier announced that the two year 2000 conventions would be located in Pittsburgh (April 15-16) and Portland OR (October 14-15).

Sunday: The Sunday garage tour concentrated on the bus and coach operations in the Orlando area popper. Coach USA: The Orlando Coach USA operation is an amalgamation of five formerly independent carriers: World Transportation Co., Gray Line of Orlando, P & S Transportation Co., Le Bus and Royal Tours of America. Most of these operators were tour and charter companies, but World had a substantial shuttle operation between Walt Disney World and nearby hotels. The 89-bus fleet is housed at the old World facility in southern Orlando. Unusual about the fleet numbering scheme is that it is based on the last four or five digits of each bus's VIN or serial number. Orlando Coach USA President Jay Kaplan hosted the tour of the property, and discussed coach operations in the Orlando area. Attendees then photographed the bus fleet of 45 MAN's, including 15 articulates, five SR-280;s and 25 Americana's, plus the two 40' SU 240's that had been built for Golden Gate Transit's methanol demonstration project; 16 MCI's, including two MC-5C's, six 102-A3's, three 102-C3's, one 102-D3 and four 102-DL3's; four Neoplan Cityliners; 13 Setra 215's; and nine Van Hool's, including three T-800's and six T-2145's. Most of the buses from the smaller previous owners had already received the standard white Coach USA paint job, but many of the former World buses were still to be found in their old paint scheme. But repainted or not, all buses bore the name of some underlying carrier. Mears Motor Coaches: The second stop was at the garage of Mears Motor Coaches, located east of downtown Orlando. Paul Mears had arranged for our tour of the former trucking facility. This carrier is a major charter and tour operator, and has an extensive shuttle operation from Orlando International Airport to the major area hotels. The fleet is painted chrome (i.e. school bus) yellow with black striping and lettering. It consists of 184 coaches, of which 158 are located in Orlando; the remainder are assigned to the Miami operation. Included are 114 MCI/TMC's (seven MC-5C's, 38 MC-9's, 14 96-A3's, 27 102-A3's, 18 102-C3's and nine 102-DL3's), 54 Van Hool T-2145's, two Neoplans, 11 of the Brazilian built Cametals (three 35' and eight 45') that are out of service and pending sale, and three cut-away vans. Forty-five of the Van Hools are dedicated to Disney Cruise contract service (these have a special yellow, white and maroon paint job). Three of the 102-DL3's are dedicated to other Disney contracts, and are solid white with the "Disney" script lettering. Transit Masters: The third stop was across the street from Mears at Transit Masters. This charter operator has a fleet of 14 Van Hool T-2145's and six MCI's, including three each 102-C3's and 102-DL3's; there were half a dozen buses in the yard for this visit. LYNX: The fourth stop was at the current Orlando transit operator, known as LYNX, but legally the Central Florida Regional Transit Authority. Rick Sonny, of LYNX's maintenance section hosted the group for a tour of the main operating base, which is a short distance west of downtown Orlando. Mr. Sonny provided a brief description of the operation, and a tour of the maintenance facilities. In the paint shop, he spoke of LYNX's present graphics design program, which features buses painted in solid colors of a number of hues, with LYNX graphics applied in reflective vinyl adhesive. There are also a number of shrink wrap designs, and Rick observed that no two buses are the same! For photographic purposes, buses were pulled out of their stalls upon request for photographic purposes. The current fleet consists of 273 buses, including 38 Flxible Metros (25 35' and 13 40'), 148 Gillig Phantom's (11 35' and 137 40') of which 10 have single doors and suburban seating; 18 35' Neoplan AN-435's, ten New Flyer 35' low floor buses, and 59 Orion's of which 12 are II's and 47 are V's, (21 40' and 26 31'-four of the 40 footers are suburbans). Downtown: From the LYNX garage, the group proceeded to downtown Orlando and the Transit Center. Greyhound: The tour then proceeded to the Greyhound bus station, some distance west of downtown. At this location, attendees photographed buses in the depot, and in the adjacent storage yard, while others made purchases at the station's gift shop. ABC Bus Inc. The seventh stop was at the ABC Bus sales facility in suburban Winter Garden. This facility is not normally open on Sunday, but on this weekend it was being staffed because of special tours being offered to APTA members. Special arrangements were made with ABC's Dennis Gray for the MBS visit. Attendees were allowed to photograph and inspect the hundreds of coaches that were displayed for sale. Junk Yard: The eighth stop was at Coach USA's so-called Junk Yard. This facility houses buses that have been removed from service, and are available for sale, or have been cannibalized for parts. Found here were Grumman Flxibles, MAN articulates and Americanas and various highway coaches, This facility is the former Orlando Transit Co./Orlando Gray Line garage and yard west of downtown. Attendees photographed and inspected the buses located there. Walt Disney World The final stop of the day was at the so-called Walt Disney World Hotel Loop, where buses of the WDW Transportation Co. depart for the various Disney theme parks in the area. LYNX and Coach USA (World Transportation) buses also serve this point from off-site locations. Attendees photographed WDWTCo buses arriving, departing and laying-over at the loop. All WDWTCo buses are GMC/TMC RTS buses. Buses are solid white with script 'Disney' graphics in red. Some of the older buses retain their original red and blue striping, however.

APTA Equipment Expo: Commencing at 10:00 AM on Monday morning and continuing though Wednesday afternoon was the tri-annual American Public Transit Association Equipment Expo. This supplier and manufacturers show was housed at the Orange County Convention Center, and was free to interested parties. Many MBS convention attendees stayed in town to attend this activity. Look for Van Wilkins review of this show in an upcoming issue of Motor Coach Age.

Acknowledgments: Special thanks are extended to MBS members Ron Van Kleek and Fred Ramon for their assistance in setting up the Sunday tour and stops.

Photo Section:

Group photo, taken at Quality Inn Hotel in Orlando.

Lakeland Area MTD Orion I model 01.502 bus at Lakeland garage. (Can't find a number)

Coach USA-Orlando (World Transportation Co.) 80231 is a 1979 MAN model SG-220 articulated bus at the former World garage in Orlando. Approximately half of the Coach USA transit bus fleet had already been painted in the new "Coach" colors.

HARTline 915, a 1999 Gillig model G18B102N4 low floor bus at the Tampa garage.

Mears Motor Coaches 846, a 1993 MCI 102-C3 coach at the Mears garage in Orlando.

PSTA 1206 a 1982 GMC T8J-604 RTS bus at the Clearwater garage. This bus is designated as part of the agency's contingency fleet.

Transit Masters 06, a 1998 MCI model 102-DL3 coach at the Orlando garage.

SCAT 9402, a 1994 Orion V model 05.504 bus at the Sarasota County maintenance yard in Sarasota.

LYNX 830, 1991 Neoplan model AN-435 bus at the Orlando garage. This bus has a solid red paint job with translucent logo decals.

SCAT 6403, a 1964 GMC TDH-4519 coach at the county yard in Sarasota. This coach is the agency's historic vehicle, and was originally delivered to St. Peterburg. Note that "Third Generation" marker and amidships clearance lights have replaced the original "second Generation" equipment.

Walt Disney World Transportation Co. 4753, a 1989 TMC T80-206 RTS bus at Hotel Circle, Walt Disney World complex in Lake Buena Vista, southwest of Orlando.

Coach USA-Orlando provided this 1999 Van Hool Model T-2145 coach for the MBS Orlando-Tampa Bay and Orlando local tours