Boulder Valley School District

Big Yellow Buses Get a New Home: Modern facility aims to boost safety and efficiency

Transportation facility under construction
Randy Barber

Starting in January 2019, BVSD’s Boulder-based buses will roll out of a brand new Transportation Center on 63rd Street in Boulder.

“There’s a lot of excitement, a lot of buzz with the drivers,” said BVSD transportation director Albert Samora.

The new facility, located just half a mile away, will replace the decades-old “bus barn” behind BVSD’s administration building on Arapahoe Road in Boulder. Relocating the central Transportation hub will reduce traffic congestion at the Education Center site which also hosts Arapahoe Ridge Campus (housing the district’s alternative high school and technical education program) and the soon-to-be-built District Kitchen.

Improved worker safety and comfort
At more than twice the size of the existing building, the new facility provides three more maintenance bays, significantly more storage, and room for driver training, something that doesn’t exist in the current facility.

“The new facility is designed to modern OSHA safety standards and will improve worker safety and efficiency,” Samora explained.

The new maintenance bays are much larger than the old ones, providing ample space for mechanics to move around the vehicles, equipment, and parts. The existing bays are so small, technicians have less than two feet to move around the largest buses, creating cramped, unsafe working conditions and scheduling challenges. Some buses are too large to fit completely inside the existing building, sometimes requiring work to be done with the garage doors open, wasting heat and cooling.

According to Samora, a number of features are intended to improve worker safety in the shop. There will be seven moveable lifts to elevate vehicles, allowing mechanics to work standing up vs. on the ground, reducing physical strain. Mechanics currently have only one stationary lift, necessitating complicated scheduling for work that requires vehicles to be elevated. Better lighting in the new facility combined with light colored floors will improve visibility. An in-floor radiant heating and cooling system will be more comfortable for the shop personnel because the system provides heat/cooling where the people are instead of the air above them.

Boosting worker efficiency
The 13 maintenance bays are arranged on either side of a central office and resource area.

“The floor plan was designed to reduce the distance and time it takes technicians to pick-up parts from the central storage area,” explained Samora. An automated system and digital dashboard at each bay allows them to order parts from their bays and notifies them when they have been pulled from storage.

“Many of our systems in the new facility are automated, and we’ll have monitors throughout with information about the maintenance status of vehicles which will cut down on the time drivers have to spend walking around the facility to see if their bus is ready,” said Samora. The automated system also will improve scheduling and communication for driver training and preventive maintenance.

Built green from the ground up
The new facility is predicted to be 57 percentage more energy efficient than a code-compliant building of the same type. Radiant in-floor heating, a high-efficiency HVAC system, interior and exterior LED lighting, daylighting, reflective floors, and self-dimming parking lot lighting all contribute to the impressive efficiency predictions.

“We built the facility to support eco-friendly technology,” Samora explained.

There is a propane filling station on site for the district’s 30 propane-powered buses, which are eco-friendly and cheaper to run than diesel. There also is an electric charging station for employees’ vehicles and future electric buses. The district already owns three hybrid buses. The automated bus wash onsite will use recycled water.

Transition and Training
Samora has a detailed transition plan in place that will kick in as soon as students leave for Winter Break. Buses returning from their afternoon runs on the last day of school in December will park at the new facility. Other vehicles, materials, parts, and equipment will be moved over the break. Also over the break, staff, technicians, and drivers will train in the new facility to get ready to roll when students return in January.

“We have a lot to do, but we’re excited for the change,” Samora said.


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