What happens to a retired Champion…

October 23, 2015, 10:51 PM

After visiting Diamond Point Plaza just east of Baltimore, Elyse and I set our sights on something else, which she had spotted on South Newkirk Street a few weeks prior.  I’m talking about this:

Bus 5214, a Champion cutaway, intended for Ride On service

This is a former Ride On cutaway, bus 5214.  It’s one of the former Champion models, which were pulled from service in 2012 due to fire concerns.  I rode this particular cutaway on January 23, May 8, June 11, and July 18, 2012, each time as part of my morning commute.  In fact, this was the last Ride On Champion that I ever rode, as I had it the day that the final fire happened, after which the buses were immediately withdrawn from service.

On the outside, other than the Ride On branding and contact information’s being painted out, it still is recognizably Ride On:

We also checked out inside:

The main passenger area looks just like it did in its Ride On days, complete with that multicolor seat fabric pattern.  But towards the front, some stripping has occurred.  The farebox and stop annunciator display are gone, and I’m guessing that Ride On did that for reuse in another bus.  In addition, the cover for the steps into the right-side door on the front are inside the bus.  Go figure.  Meanwhile, I used to always try to sit in that forwardmost seat on the side-facing row, right next to the door.  That way, if the bus caught fire, I could quickly get out of there.

The driver’s area was where it was most evident that this was not a “real” transit bus:

That’s definitely not the driver’s area of a bus.  The column-mounted selector (vs. an Allison transmission pad), the column-mounted turn signal (real transit buses have the turn signals on the floor), the smaller steering wheel, the roll-down window on the driver’s door, and the general look and shape of the dashboard are good indicators that this is no bus.

Just before we left the area, we attracted the attention of and got to have a conversation with the people who now own this former Ride On cutaway.  As it turned out, they bought several of these cutaways, and the plan is to send them to Africa for use over there.  This is similar to how school buses, after being retired for school use, often end up in Latin America and elsewhere, where they see a second career.  So it’s good to see that these buses will still see some use, but I certainly hope that they get to the bottom of the fire issues that caused Ride On to pull them in the first place.  My guess is that these issues will go unresolved, because if these issues were resolvable, Ride On would have kept them in service, rather than quickly replacing them with former WMATA Orion Vs.

So I guess the Ride On Champion story has a somewhat happy ending.  While they only lasted a few years with Ride On (and for good reason), it sounds like they will have a new career overseas.  And who knows: maybe in Africa, they will get the long career that they were unable to get here.

Categories: Baltimore, Elyse, Ride On