The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority removed 164 buses from service last week after unexplained engine shutdowns caused two people to suffer minor injuries.

In two separate instances, buses travelling at low speeds — both under 10 mph — suffered unusual engine failures. WMATA immediately removed all the 2015-16 New Flyer bus models from service and opened an investigation into the cause of the problem. The bus models affected by the WMATA’s decision make up 10 percent of Metro’s bus fleet.

While only two of the 164 vehicles in service showed signs of problems, Metro immediately pulled the entire fleet from service, citing “customer and employee safety as our highest priority,” Manager of Media Relations Sherri Ly said in an interview with The Hoya.

ANNA KOVACEVICH/THE HOYA WMATA removed all the 2015-16 New Flyer bus models from service and opened an investigation into the cause of the engine shutdowns.

The affected buses are still under the manufacturer warranty, and representatives from the manufacturer, New Flyer, are joining WMATA in inspecting the vehicles.

Testing began late last week, though Ly said the cause of the malfunction has not yet been identified. Evaluations are continuing throughout the week and include test runs of buses without passengers to gather more information. Ly could not discuss any liability the manufacturer may face under the terms of its contract with WMATA.

If and when the buses will return to service is undetermined, as of Wednesday night.

“The timeline will be determined by the investigation, and there is no specific date as to when these buses may return to service,” Ly said.

New Flyer is a Canadian company based in Winnipeg that manufactures buses and other heavy-duty vehicles. It is one of the largest bus manufacturers in the world and built almost half of all heavy-duty transit buses made in North America in 2016.

WMATA operates many other buses of different models manufactured by New Flyer, but the company believes those models are unaffected by the issue and will keep them in normal service, according to Ly. WMATA has supplemented its remaining active buses with 80 “reserve” buses, fewer than half the number of buses forced off the roads as a result of the safety concerns.

“While we understand there may be some customer inconvenience as a result of this action, safety must trump service,” Chief Safety Officer Patrick Lavin said in a March 28 news release.

While some bus riders may notice slightly longer wait times, WMATA does not expect the inspection to have a large impact on overall service, the organization said in the March 28 news release.

“There are no significant customer impacts to report, as reserve buses have been placed into service and equipment has been redeployed to cover most scheduled trips,” Ly said.

One Comment

  1. The photo that accompanies this article shows the wrong kind of bus. The photo depicts an Orion VII Next Generation, but the buses discussed in the article are New Flyer XN40 – a completely different manufacturer.

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