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From CUTA's Archives: Evolution of the Modern Transit Coach

Jeneephan Arulanantham, Intern, Research and Statistics (CUTA)

For this Throwback Thursday (TBT), CUTA’s Technical Services department digs up a historical and very worn book from our library which showcases the evolution of the motor coach.

The Memorandum on Motor Bus Tariffs (1937) was assembled by Yellow Coaches, a North American bus manufacturing company founded in 1923. The purpose of the memorandum was to advocate that motor coaches should be exempt from duties and taxes because they are the public’s transportation system and a cornerstone for vehicular innovation. Yellow Coaches stressed the importance of public transit and argued that motor coach evolution sparked innovation in vehicle manufacturing. The memorandum kicks off a recap of motor coach history with the following quote:

“As a guide to the future, there is nothing better than the facts of experience. Let us review the history and progress in the evolution of the motor coach.”

The Evolution of the modern transit coach explained with 7 iterations of the motor coach in North America

The Dingle

From 1922 to 1925, General Motors Truck Company (GMC) produced Model VC bus-trucks named, “The Dingle”. These buses used extended truck frames, thus appropriately called bus-trucks. Bus-trucks were unreliable, expensive, dangerous, and were inefficient for public transportation.

Model Z-250

Buses produced in 1925 - 1927 were similar to the Model Z-250, manufactured by Yellow Coaches. These bus-trucks were composites of wood and metal and could carry up to 29 people. The Model Z-250 more closely resembled a truck than an automobile and featured improvements such as increased capacity, power, dual tires, and a second door for offboarding.

In 1927-1929 a new generation of buses emerged on the scene. The truck type chassis was removed and engines were no longer located at the front but in the back. The design of this bus was the beginning of a real motor coach.

Chassisless constructed motor coach from Yellow Coaches

In 1931-1934 the first rear mounted engines started to appear. These buses sported comfortable seating, better lighting, and ventilation which became standard equipment. These buses marked the beginning of the modern-day motor coach, designed specifically for carrying the masses with comfort, safety, and efficiency.

Yellow Coaches’ quote rings true, that an accurate guide to the future are facts of experience. Each evolution of the motor coach was an improvement built on its predecessor. Public transit has evolved to better serve the masses, because they are for the public!

A Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) articulated low-floor diesel bus / TTC.ca

Take for example this articulated bus operated by the TTC. Many aspects of its design are centred around the same principals described in the memorandum: comfort, safety, and efficiency. Modern day vehicles are continually improving to better serve the public such as focusing on accessibility, carrying capacity, and efficiency.

Winnipeg Transit demonstrates battery-electric bus / Winnipeg Transit

Another public-oriented innovation is the electrification of buses to reduce green house emissions and fuel costs to promote environmental and transit sustainability. Greening initiatives, such as electrification, go beyond benefitting just passengers, but communities as a whole.

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