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Could a double-decker bus be in the Big Island’s future?

 Photography and story by Baron Sekiya/Hawaii247.com

County officials and the media took a ride into the future, or at least the possible future, for Big Island public transportation Friday afternoon aboard a double-decker bus. The county is considering purchasing the double-decker buses for its Hele-On fleet which serves the public with free bus transportation.

The Enviro 500 bus, by British manufactuer Alexander Dennis, is being considered because of a requirement that buses cannot exceed 14 feet in height and using two decks extends the capacity to 98 passengers (seated and standing) while still remaining maneuverable in turns. The double-decker buses are currently being used in Las Vegas and San Francisco in the United States for public transportation and are a low-floor design which allows easy access for wheelchairs.

A fold out ramp provides wheelchair access while a stairwell in the bus allows for other riders to sit in the upper deck. This top deck provides a panoramic view though the ceiling may seem a little short for tall passengers moving about the cabin. The bus is diesel powered and there is an optional model that is a hybrid design. The buses have a video monitoring system that allows the driver to view the upper deck.

Tom Brown, County Transit Administrator said, the county currently has 50 Hele-On buses of various sizes which hold 25-49 people each with nine more single deck buses on order. Current buses are equipped with bicycle racks which passengers sometimes load surfboards onto.

An Enviro 500 double-decker bus on Aupuni Street in Hilo is ready for a demonstration run for media and county officials.

An Enviro 500 double-decker bus on Aupuni Street in Hilo is ready for a demonstration run for the media and county officials.

The double-decker bus has a fold out ramp for wheelchair accessibility. The bus would be outfitted with bike racks in the front as current Hele-On buses.

A fold out ramp provides wheelchair accessibility. The bus would be outfitted with bike racks in the front as current Hele-On buses.

The upper passenger cabin may be a bit cramped for tall, standing passengers who would normally be sitting in seats.

The upper passenger cabin may be a bit cramped for tall, standing passengers who would normally be sitting in seats.

The upper deck of the bus provides a panoramic view out of the front for passengers.

The front of the upper deck of the bus provides a panoramic view out.

Service manager Bernie Aflleje drives the double-decker bus to Keaau during a demonstration ride for the county officials and the media Friday afternoon.

Service manager Bernie Aflleje drives the double-decker bus to Keaau during a demonstration ride for the county officials and the media Friday afternoon.

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