The initiative came from First, the largest bus operator in the UK. First wanted to create something new, an innovation that carried bus travel into the future and which would make it more attractive for people to leave their cars at home and take the bus instead. It created ftr, an abbreviation for future.
The ftr concept is to make bus travel in cities simpler, faster and more attractive than previously. First wanted to create something that had the attractiveness and convenience of a streetcar but with the superior total economy, flexibility and speed, with regard to starting traffic, of the bus.
A key element of ftr is the actual vehicle. Together with Volvo Buses and Wrights, the StreetCar was created. It is an 18.7-meter articulated bus, 2.55-meters wide and 3.3 meters high. The chassis is basically Volvo’s B7L city bus with a 7-liter Euro 3 engine with 275 hp. Two of the major changes made by Volvo Buses particularly for the StreetCar are the driver’s cab and the cooling system.
The driver of the StreetCar sits in a raised position, above the front axle, which provides more space for passengers, without compromising the driver environment. The elevated position gives the driver an excellent overview of traffic. The entire cooling system is roof-mounted to maximize passenger space around the engine compartment. This also helps with cooling, reduces noise and increases the window area so there is a feeling of more space.
The Wrights company created the conspicuous design. There were many citizens of York who gave a second appreciative glance at the bus the first day in traffic. The interior of the bus is very bright and spacious and the first passengers were very satisfied with the bus.
But StreetCar is just part of ftr. In cooperation with the City of York, First has developed a number of solutions to make travel faster and more convenient. The bus stops have been raised for more comfortable entry and exit. A satellite-based computer system tracks the buses and, if they are behind schedule, can give them the green light at traffic signals.
To reduce entering and exiting time, the passengers are requested to pay in advance with a discount. One way to purchase tickets is via a mobile phone. The passenger receives a bar code sent to the phone, which is then held in front of a barcode reader on the automatic ticket machine on the bus.
York has ordered 11 StreetCars, which are now in traffic. Volvo Buses and Wrights have received orders for an additional 28 StreetCar models that, among other sites, will be placed in traffic in Leeds. Many other cities in Europe have expressed interest in the bus.
May 10, 2006