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Las Vegas summer heat is hard on RTC’s double-decker buses

Getting around Las Vegas can be tough during the summer.

Packed jetliners have a hard time taking off when it’s too hot at McCarran International Airport. Soaring temperatures cause radiator problems for cars traveling on our local roads.

And, bus engines occasionally get overheated.

Don from Henderson said he noticed the rear hatch propped open on a bus traveling north on Eastern Avenue a few times this month — most recently on July 18 — and wanted to know whether this was a legal method to cool the engine.

“If I drove my car on a public road with my hood raised — even a vehicle with a rear engine compartment — I bet I’d be pulled over and get a ticket and told to get off the road,” Don wrote in an email to the Road Warrior.

You’re right, Don. Both you and the bus driver would probably be in trouble if your vehicles were moving with any open hatches — front or rear.

“It is an operational mistake and unacceptable,” RTC spokesman Brad Seidel said.

The most recent offending bus driver was told to keep the engine hatch closed, and warnings were distributed to the rest of the RTC’s staff, Seidel said. Your letter prompted increased supervisor presence on the road to keep an eye out for buses operating with their hatches open.

Within the RTC’s fleet of 130 double-decker buses from British manufacturer Alexander Dennis, there are 90 single-staircase vehicles that are known to overheat when temperatures rise above 107 degrees, Seidel said. The problem is not noticed with the RTC’s double-staircase buses.

The 90 single-staircase buses were purchased for $62 million — mostly through federal funds — and operated normally until summer 2013, when drivers noticed problems with the engine cooling system.

“These issues began to arise after the buses spent a good bit of time on the residential routes, which are actually much tougher on the vehicles than the Resort Corridor due to inclines in the route, typically longer routes and higher average speeds,” Seidel said.

Even though the warranty was expired, the bus manufacturer paid for the repairs to ensure all the issues were corrected by early 2014.

Today, drivers are allowed to pull over and open the rear compartment as a way to cool their bus engines, but only when the vehicle is broken down or at a layover point.

“When it’s above 107 degrees and in direct sunlight, it can be expected that all of the single-staircase buses are using this procedure,” Seidel said. “We experience the most difficulties with these specific buses overheating during the summer months.”

Additionally, measures are taken to avoid overheated engines, including a method known as “fast idling,” which allows bus drivers to flip a switch that increases the vehicle’s RPM to make the engine fan spin faster and allow the coolant to move more quickly, Seidel said.

Drivers also conduct pre-trip inspections of coolant levels, the air conditioning system, windows, doors and seals on every bus.

“On routes that have a high rate of overheating, our operators will stage an extra bus at a layover point to allow buses more time to cool down before returning to the route,” Seidel said. “This essentially allows the buses time to rest without sacrificing frequency for riders.”

Anyone who spots a moving bus with an open engine compartment can call 702-228-7433 so that the RTC can launch an immediate investigation.

Flooded street

The downpour last Wednesday caused some heavy flooding on several streets, including a one-mile stretch of Cabana Drive between Flamingo and Desert Inn roads, according to video posted on a Facebook group known as Eastsiders Taking Action.

The post had questioned whether a median recently built along Cabana had contributed to the excessive water buildup.

Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa said that the new median did not cause the street to flood because there are six breaks along the one-mile stretch that allow vehicles to turn.

“Intersections, including this one, may be inundated during a heavy rain event,” Pappa said. “In such cases, it does take time to drain. We received a large amount of rain in a short period of time, and that alone is responsible for the flooding.”

Signal adjustment

Jerry from Henderson said he’s pleased with recent improvements on Seven Hills Drive near St. Rose Parkway, but suggested some adjustments.

The northbound traffic signal, he said, should be synchronized to allow straight, left-turn and right-turn drivers to go at the same time to keep traffic from backing up.

The city is working with the Nevada Department of Transportation to make some signal adjustments, which should be “completed very soon,” said Kim Becker, a city of Henderson spokeswoman.

Questions and comments should be sent to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number. Follow @RJroadwarrior on Twitter.

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