We hopped aboard a spankin’ new MATBUS Wednesday as part of the MATBUS/DCP’s“Lunch-and-Ride” promotion. We got to drive through a bus-wash, eat Spicy Pie pizza in the idyllic Island Park Gazebo and learn a bit about how our city’s public transportation system works.
All we know is that it was more fun than a third-grader’s field trip to an ice cream factory. We had a blast. And we’re pretty sure the experience turned a few Kilbournians into public-transportation converts.
Here’s what we learned:
1. It’s like they traveled from from the future! High-tech, space-shippesque and energy-efficient, our city’s new hybrid buses look, drive and act like they’re from the year 2025. Their impressive technology is everywhere: from the LED lighting and nine hidden cameras onboard to their hybrid status. The fleet’s newest additions — the four hybrids — are especially fascinating. Each New Flyer is fueled by 15 hydrogen batteries until it reaches 36 miles per hour, at which point it kicks into diesel mode. Even cooler, the batteries “recharge” automatically every time the bus driver applies the brakes. The result of all this hybrid ingenuity: A hybrid bus uses 61 percent less fuel than a conventional one. Considering the size of these behemoths, that’s pretty amazing.
2. They are locally made. Here’s what is even more impressive: All of this technology and manufacturing occurred right in the old US of A. To go one further, the New Flyers were made by New Flyer of America Inc., right in Crookston, Minn.! Uff-da!
3, They are so sparkly. So very, very sparkly. The bus we rode looked as clean as a medical clinic inside. It helped that this particular one – a massive 41-footer – is 6 1/2 weeks old and has just 602 miles on it. But Gregg Schildberger, Fargo Transit Planner for MATBUS, assured us that cleanliness is a huge priority for all buses in their care. Each one receives a Daytona-worthy pitstop every single day: A five-person maintenance crew has 12 minutes to clean the interior, fuel up and remove the farebox from the vehicle. The bus also will move through a giant car wash — a bus wash, if you will — which cleans the exterior with eco-friendly recycled water.
4. They put on A LOT of miles. An off-the-assembly-line hybrid costs $675,000, but it will earn its keep. Before it’s retired, the average bus will have traveled 685,000 miles. At $1.02 a mile, that’s not too shabby.
Above: Our fun-filled field trip included pizza at the Island Park Gazebo and a live remote by Y-94!
5. They’ll save you a ton of cha-ching. The use of public transportation will reduce your carbon footprint from Jolly Green Giant-size to Tom Thumb-size.But at just $1.50/ride, it will also fatten up your wallet considerably. Schildberger reminded us that it costs more than $9,900/year to fuel up and maintain one car. A year’s bus pass costs just $480. With that annual savings, a family could take a vacation to Hawaii in mid-January, when sun-starved Northerners need it most.
6.They are used by passengers from all walks of life. Schildberg says people of all ages, backgrounds and income levels use the bus. In fact, some kids as young as 6 or 7 navigate the whole MATBUS system by themselves with great proficiency. Overall, bus travel has become increasingly more popular, Schildberger says. Six years ago, the MATBUS system served 757,000 a year. In 2012, that number climbed to 2.2 million! And he believes it will only get busier.
7. They have an app for that (or at least they will). The MATBUS team is working on a website app that will tell prospective riders where they are, when the next bus will be there and what the whole system looks like. Look for it this fall!
To learn more about the MATBUS system, please go to: matbus.com
(Above.) We were encouraged to get wacky for the camera. Forever the overachievers, we did as told.