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Missing the bus

14 older workhorse articulated buses retired as part of metro's transit expansion plan.

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It was a big deal when 14 Nova Bus articulated buses---the "double" buses, with a hinge in the middle---showed up on the streets of Halifax in 1993. "We weren't sure they'd be able to handle the hills," says Metro Transit's Lori Patterson. "But they've really proven themselves. And the kids especially liked them; they called them the 'bendies.'"

Those 14 buses have been workhorses. With seating for 69 and standing room for another 35, they reduced double-heading, improved rush-hour service and cut labour costs. It's anyone's guess how many passengers they've ferried over the years---hundreds of thousands each, certainly, possibly into the millions.

But now they're being retired, victims to poor fuel mileage and emissions and increased maintenance costs. The first two---the venerable #708 and #710---were taken out of commission last week, their fare boxes yanked, their engines cannibalized for parts and their carcasses unceremoniously discarded to the rear of the bus barn lot in Burnside, in limbo until they're towed to Surplus Land for scrap. The pair are being replaced by two New Flyer hybrid articulated buses, financed by the province.

The other 12 will soon follow. Thanks to a relatively aggressive transit expansion plan approved by Halifax council, 45 new Nova Bus articulated buses will arrive over the next three years---15 each year. The new buses, which cost about $700,000 each, will be placed on the busiest routes, notably the #1, with the smaller buses now on those routes used to increase service on other routes.

This is a good news story, but perhaps we should pause to consider the humanity carried by the buses passing into history: the overheard conversations, the thousands of books read, the relationships formed, the relationships lost, the fights with drivers, the...OK, maybe not.

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