Bus Stop Classics Obscurity:  1994-2002 Nova Bus RTS 06 WFD (Wide Front Door) – The Door Closes on the RTS

We’ve told the RTS story here, but I thought it would be interesting to highlight the last version of this controversial and conflicted design.

Early RTS 01 “Slantback”


We all know the history of the RTS – GM’s vaunted successor to the iconic “New Look” bus, and its initial years that were filled with numerous teething problems, poor build quality, and disappointed operators.  

DART – Dallas


The Bus – Honolulu


But after being in production for over eighteen years, and cycling through three owners, all the “kinks” had been pretty much worked out.  That brings us to the final variant, the 06 WFD.  While TMC and Nova Bus made an RTS 08 model, the 06 WFD was actually a successor to the 08 and the last model produced in quantity.  

Not an RTS – example only


Why the WFD?  It was the best option for making this old design compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, which required buses to be accessible to people with physical challenges, specifically those that use wheelchairs.  Previous versions had the wheelchair lift on the rear door, which required the driver to exit his/her seat and walk back to operate it.  Moving it to the front door allowed them to remain seated and shaved a few precious seconds off the dwell time.

TTC – Toronto


Sun Tran – Tucson


And it had some other major changes over the “legacy” model.  First, the front was changed to a more flatter appearance, with the headlights lowered to just above the bumper.  Then around 1999, the transverse engine layout was modified to a longitudinal one – using either Cummins ISC/ISM or Detroit Diesel Series 50 engines (diesel or CNG).

But with newer low-floor models being introduced, which had significantly faster dwell times, the writing was on the wall.  In 2003, with its own new LF model, Nova Bus sold the RTS rights to Millennium Transit Services (MTS), which was mostly owned by the employees at the Roswell New Mexico manufacturing plant where the bus was made.  MTS’s new model was called the RTS Legend; it kept the flat front windshield but reverted back to the old-style headlights.  The company did receive several orders from New Jersey Transit and El Paso – but wasn’t able to complete them due to lack of capital.  New Jersey Transit rescinded its order and twenty-five buses already built were re-sold to Texas A&M University.  MTS filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a few years later, re-emerging, then closing again.  While there was no formal announcement of them ceasing operations, their offices in Roswell have been vacant for the past five years.