(first posted 7/2/2016) There are currently three heavy duty urban transit coach manufacturers that have US-based operations; New Flyer, NovaBus and Gillig. Of those three, Gillig is the only remaining company that has its origins in the US – it can be traced all the way back to Jacob Gillig’s carriage and wagon shop established in Hayward California in 1890.
Paul previously wrote an excellent post on Gillig that focused on the company from the 1950s to the late ’70s, when it was one of the premier manufacturers of school buses on the West Coast.
But the company had the forethought to understand declining enrollments in the 1970’s meant reduced future school bus sales, so it made the smart business decision to broaden its product line – and in 1980, introduced its first urban transit model – the Phantom.
The Phantom went on to great success, however, as a high-floor bus, it was out of step (no pun intended) with new access requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The company once again was in need of a new model. Gillig also had another reason besides ADA requirements to pursue a low-floor coach – it, along with now defunct Orion, had successfully courted the shuttle market, and one of its primary clients was in need of a bus that allowed its customers easier loading and unloading…
So Gillig developed the H2000LF (low floor) coach for these shuttle operators.
Advantage 40 ft model
And building on this model, it introduced a low floor transit bus in 1996, and named it the “Advantage.”
29 ft 35 ft
Here again, Gillig differed from its two other competitors – both New Flyer and NovaBus brought their new low floor designs to market in just one length – 40 ft (though smaller versions were available later). Upon introduction, Gillig had 29, 35 and 40 ft models for customers to choose from.
Powertrain and transmission options were typical (Detroit Diesel and Cummins; ZF, Voith, and Allison), though the Cummins ISL or ISB seemed to be the preferred engine.
Hybrid and CNG versions were also offered.
The Gillig is in wide use; it’s in operation with over 200 transportation entities – and it’s currently the second most popular LFS model in terms of sales in North America. Here are two examples from Waukesha Metro Transit in what I think is a very attractive livery…
Here’s a Gillig from what we Buckeyes (and Coach Woody Hayes) refer to as “that state up north.” Being an Ohio State University alumnus, I wouldn’t recommend driving this bus south of Toledo…
This one’s more my style…I bet it’s faster than that Blue bus too…
The Gillig Advantage/LFS is another bus I have not had the opportunity to ride in – I’d be interested in hearing from readers how it compares to its New Flyer and NovaBus competitors.