VIA bus drivers prepare for launch of Primo buses

Extra-long buses add seating, new features

SAN ANTONIO – VIA bus drivers have been busy training on the new VIA Primo buses, preparing for their debut on San Antonio roads next month.

This new line of buses are 60 feet long, 20 feet longer than traditional buses, and include added features..

"It really is ... going to make a difference for those buses that are really crowded and carry a lot of people," said bus driver Diana Opella. "I think they will have a whole different experience as far as finding seats."

Extra seats are just one perk.

The new buses are also quieter than other buses and run on natural gas. There's easier access for people with disabilities or in wheelchairs. They have near-level boarding, so it's easier to get on board, and people in wheelchairs will have to option to buckle themselves in, rather than having to rely on the driver to do it for them.

A special bike rack on the bus will make it possible for cyclists to bring their bikes on board. The buses will also have video monitors and free Wi-Fi on board.

Riders may notice more movement inside the bus -- mostly because of the articulated midsection. The distinctive bend in the middle, which looks like an accordion, makes the bus easier to maneuver.

"It's great," said Opella, "The back of the bus just follows you where ever you go, so it's not very hard at all."

The Primo buses will be used along the Fredericksburg Road route, which goes from downtown to the Medical Center area and to UTSA.

"We knew that we needed to do something to help carry the passenger loads that we were experiencing on Fredericksburg Road and this seemed like a great alternative to us," said VIA spokeswoman Priscilla Ingle.

Right now, drivers are still training on the new rides. They'll officially roll out on Dec. 17.

The community will have the opportunity to preview the buses along the Fredericksburg route on Dec. 15-16 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Right now, there are 16 VIA Primo buses. Three more will be added to be used in the Leon Valley area late next year.

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