Seems like hardly anybody notices the hundreds of buses that pull in and out of the MTA depot at Washington Boulevard and Bush Street in Southwest Baltimore every day. That changed dramatically this past Wednesday when the sleek new 2011 Xcelsior bus pulled out of the lot on the way to a photo shoot across the street in Carroll Park. Everybody’s eyes followed us like a dog hypnotized by a juicy bone. And no wonder. This is one gorgeous vehicle.
Presently, it’s still undergoing inspection before being released into service. But it wasn’t hard to see that the new Xcelsior has plenty of obvious aesthetic advantages over its older cousins.
It’s 2,500 pounds lighter than prior models, for starters. The limousine-like frameless windows offer an uninterrupted view that gives passengers inside a new feeling of spaciousness and connection with the outside environment. The seats reserved for elderly and disabled passengers are clearly marked that way on the fabric of the seat itself. And the bright yellow step up to the rear of the bus is so big and clearly indicated that it’s bound to help passengers maintain their footing better than ever.
The ride? So smooth and quiet, it’s sure to please those who prefer keeping their conversations understated, and for passengers who make good use of their riding time enjoying power naps. And of course, as a diesel hybrid, it’s built to do its job as efficiently and environmentally sensitively as possible.
There’s also an interesting feature on the front of the bus that makes MTA’s newest pride and joy unique in the nation – a three-light set of amber indicators above the destination sign that flash continuously in sequence. According to our “insider” scoop from the guys in the shop, this is an innovation that was fought for by our own Administrator Ralign Wells (himself a former MTA Bus Operator) in Annapolis. Turns out that a state driving law had to be changed to make it legal for a non-rescue vehicle to use continuously flashing yellow lights. It’s a safety feature that’s expected to be particularly welcome because it allows riders to see their bus arriving from a distance of several blocks – instead of having to stand way out in the street to see whether it’s a bus or a delivery truck coming their way.
The new bright white destination signs themselves also help the Xcelsior announce its arrival with authority.