See Unitrans Buses for information on other buses.

"The University Transport System owns nine of these imported London double-decker buses. This unique system is owned and operated by the Associated Students of UC Davis Campus and serves the UC Davis Campus and the City of Davis with a regularly scheduled bus service during the school year." —From the back of a Unitrans bus postcard, available for sale in the UCD Bookstore.

Two of these buses were purchased back in 1967 by ASUCD direct from England to attract people to use the service. This was the inception of Unitrans, the only transit company in the United States to use authentic London double-deck buses in daily service.

Oct 9, 1967 California Aggie article Nov 10, 1967 Davis Enterprise article

Over the years, other double-decker buses were procured from London. The majority of the double-deckers were of the RT type, though both RTL, RLH and Daimler models were also part of the fleet over the years. The Daimler double-deckers were retired from service in 1999, as upkeep was difficult (the parts were and still are simply unavailable). The RT buses remain in service thanks to the services of Wally Mellor, the former director of Unitrans Maintenance. Most of the spare parts were hand-made by Wally at the Shop facility, a practice that he still takes part in occasionally though he has since retired. RTL 1014, one of the original pair to be purchased in 1968, is still part of the fleet today, though it has been retired from regular service.

Riding the Double-Deckers

The Double-Decker buses currently provide service to the MU terminal and Silo terminal, and operate only on the B, E, F, G, J, and V lines. Other lines pose significant hazards to the buses such as low hanging power lines, trees, and the Richards Underpass. Once the Alexander Dennis Enviro500 buses are added to the fleet, Unitrans may consider running them on lines from the Silo Terminal.

The RT Double-Decker buses are not wheelchair-accessible and have no bike racks. Other runs during the day on these lines provide wheelchair accessibility. The Enviro500 buses are wheelchair accessible and feature a ramp and kneeler function.

Interestingly, in December of 2005 London finally retired their line of Routemaster double-decker buses, making Davis perhaps the last bastion of regular vintage double-decker operation.

Bus Information

Currently six buses remain from the original collection.

  • RT 742 is currently in service after undergoing massive maintenance and restoration. This included replacing all of the wooden beams that hold the body panels to the bus, as well as new windows. 742 is easily identified by its unique (to Unitrans) route number box on the roof, which will once again display its route number "13" from its days in London. In Summer 2007, RT 742 was modified once again, removing the pre-select transmission in favor of an Allison automatic, and replacing the engine with a clean diesel that would meet CARB 2007 emissions standards, allowing Unitrans to continue running the bus for the foreseeable future. Following conversion to the modern engine, RT 742 is the fastest double-deck in the fleet, and features a modern rear-end as well, making it very reliable at higher speeds.
  • RTL 1014 returned to daily service in Spring Quarter 2006 after a three year absence. It is a coveted prize both here and in London, and museums all over the world are eager to get their hands on the bus. "RTL" signifies that the bus was an RT built by Leyland. Keen observers will note the slightly different front grill. This bus has been kept as original as possible. 1014 has its original pre-select transmission, meaning that it is a pseudo-manual transmission bus. The next gear the driver wishes to shift to is "pre-selected" via a lever on the steering column and then a pedal is depressed and released to shift the transmission into that gear. RTL 1014's original engine does not meet any current emissions standards, and thus is not permitted to run in revenue service. It has been retired, but remains at the Unitrans garage. In January 2012, RTL was sent back to London Esignbus Transport Museum.
  • RT 1235 is slated to become the second London double-decker to be converted to CNG. Over the last few years it has been easily recognizable as the frame of a double-decker sitting next to the Fleet Services yard, and is visible from the new Tercero dorms. To date, even more of the frame has been stripped from 1235 in order to attach and install CNG tanks both underneath the frame and underneath the stairwell.
  • RT 2819 is the first and only London double-decker known to be converted into a CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) fueled bus. It runs in service daily, and is distinctive due to its brighter red paint and extra decals. It also is one the fastest double deck in the fleet and is capable of reaching highway speeds. The rear-end of the bus remains original, however, and does not last long at higher speeds.
  • RT 3123 is currently out of service for frame rebuilding. Previously, it was refit with a Cummins diesel engine and Allison automatic transmission. It can run a bit smoky so you may want to avoid bicycling directly behind it. This bus does not meet the 2010 CARB emissions standards, and thus plans for the future are currently unknown.
  • RT 4735 is currently in service after being refitted with a modern Cummins diesel engine that meets the current CARB emissions standards.

Last revenue run of RT1014

On Dec 14, 2007, the 1014 made its last revenue run with its original engine. Many Unitrans managers and drivers boarded to celebrate 40 years of faithful service. RTL 1014 remains at the Unitrans Garage, however it will no longer run in service due to stringent emissions standards.

Unitrans Manager Geoff Straw and other friends of the 1014 enjoy the ride south on Anderson Road Assistant manager Anthony Palmere and founding manager Tom Matoff enjoy the ride on the lower level.

Modern Double-Deck Buses

Unitrans was considering the purchase of modern double-deck buses. A bus was borrowed for a two-week "test drive" to see if the bus will work well for Unitrans. Testing began on January 21st, 2006. Unfortunately these buses are not available for purchase with a CNG engine. However, the modern diesel engines (the 2007 engine model year specifically) are just as clean and efficient as 2007 CNG engines. Unitrans will be taking this issue to the City of Davis in the near future. More information can be found on the Unitrans website at http://www.unitrans.com.

Unitrans has purchased two Alexander Dennis Enviro500 buses, received in 2010. To prepare for these buses' arrival, Alexander Dennis loaned Unitrans the bus that was tested in January 2006. The bus is affectionately known as "Big Al", as it is one of the prototype Enviro500 buses and survived the Altoona Test for the Federal Government.

Below are photos of "Big Al" during her 2006 visit:

Big Windows Lower Deck

Wide Stairway Upper Deck

The new Unitrans Alexander Dennis Enviro500 busses by final product and through the building process:

In the process In the process New Unitrans DD New and Old

Comments:

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These are the slowest things ever — SS


I love these buses. There have been several times when I was in a down mood and just riding on a double-decker bus cheered me up. - KenjiYamada


These are my favorite busses to ride. It makes my day if I get to ride on double-deckers both to and from campus. - MargieHalloran


2006-01-21 10:15:08   I love double-deckers. They may be slow and stinky, but the interiors are much more inviting (to me anyway) than the generic buses. —CindySperry


2006-01-21 17:06:47   Those are some ugly, ugly new busses. The uplostery especially. —TravisGrathwell


2006-01-21 17:48:22   eewwwwwwwww. I hate the paint job and upholstery... and the feel of the bus is way too sterile. :( —CindySperry

  • That's a demo bus, on loan from the Great White North. The upholstery and paint job will probably be different, since all busses are essentially custom made. —BrentLaabs
  • The paint job on the outside of the new buses will be identical to the rest of the fleet, and the upholstery will be similar to the current fleet's seating. —DanielHill

2006-01-21 18:11:02   Can anyone tell me what the purpose of the "flag girl" (may be sexist, but all I've seen were young females) on the rear of the old busses? —GrumpyoldGeek

  • You've obviously have not ridden many of the DD because there are many male conductors also. Conductors help out the driver by collecting fares, ensuring everyone is seated or standing in a designated area, and ring the bell for stops people need to get off of so the driver knows when to stop. They hold out the reflector flags so that cars see this as a signal of passengers boarding or disembarking the bus, when the bus is travelling at slow speeds or merging with another lane of traffic. — JoAnnaRich
    • It is because in England vehicles drive on the left side of the road so the bus door is on the left. In the U.S. this faces traffic, so the flag person protects people getting on from traffic going by. -NickSchmalenberger

2007-06-04 01:35:17   Can't the engineering dept modify the modern double deckers to run on CNG? Or would that be cost-prohibitive? —TusharRawat


2007-06-05 12:08:12   I don't know if Unitrans shop mechanics can do that, and I don't know why they just can't be all CNG. I'll ask the General Manager later today and respond, :D —ChristyMarsden

  • Different kind of engine. Would be very expensive to change, I'm surprized the manufacturere doesn't have a CNG option though as so many bus outfits are heading that way. — rocksanddirt
  • 2007-12-23 07:15:58   Hey Tushar, I work in the unitrans shop and the reason behind not converting all the double-deckers to CNG is 1) it is cost prohibitive to change the engines. Each of these buses is about 30 grand...not including adding the CNG tanks and all the rehab work needed 2) the companies making CNG engines, like John Deer, are starting to stop offering CNG engines. We had one already for the next CNG conversion on 1235 but now it will be a spare if 2819's John Deere has a meltdown. 3) The conversion process for each Double Deck takes at least a year and usually more like 5. 4) The biggest misconception is that CNG is better than Diesel, this is not necessarily true. CNG has many chemicals and emissions that can be much more hazardous to your health than any emissions coming out of a diesel engine's exhaust. Remember just because it's emissions clear doesn't necessarily mean that it's better for the environment. Anyways that's my 2-cents on that whole issue. -NathanielJarrett
  • Turning a modern diesel DD into CNG would require replacing the engine and finding a place to mount the CNG tanks. Retrofitting the old DD buses requires a significant amount of engineering (done mostly by our incredibly talented student shop mechanics) and is done while we have the bus stripped during a complete retrofit. Doing this to a modern bus is less than ideal. Nobody in the world makes a new CNG double deck bus, and Davis may have the only one in the world. -ScottWeintraub
    • It would be great if one or several people who know the details could just add the information to the entry itself so people don't have to read through the comments to learn this stuff. It's obviously a question that people have, so just rewrite the entry to answer it. If your answer gets too long, feel free to create a whole new entry about it — the engineering (both modern and the history of what has been done to the buses in the past) is a neat little story unto itself! —JabberWokky

2007-09-22 02:17:23   I had the privilege of being a passenger on the 1014 today—it was a real treat. A grand old bus, so much of it looks to be original. Too bad the original engine needs to be removed for smog purposes. Hats of to Unitrans and 1014—40 years of continuous doubledecker bus service. —TedBuehler Are any of the old Daimler buses still around in 1 piece, or who could I ask about these as I have a single decker Daimler, thanks.


2010-03-27 00:04:49   You can't beat riding on the top floor of a double-decker on a spring day with the windows open! —ArianeMetz

  • Totally agree. It's a great feeling. Too bad the new double-decker's front windows on the top floor don't open. =/ —TheShah

2010-03-27 02:51:02   The new double deckers have a very nice new paint job to match the current red fleet. —TheShah


2010-05-26 12:12:29   Hi there, my name is Fethi, I live in long beach,ca . I have a double Decker bus that needs a transmission, used of course or rebuilt. Where and how can I find a place for that? Thanks! —fethi Most of the parts are very very hard to find, I know the university uses master machinists to machine whatever parts they need, perhaps you can follow up on that route? Daubert


2010-05-26 17:36:10   New double deckers are sweet —StevenDaubert


2011-01-08 01:29:48   Hey Wikignomes and Wikifairies —

How about some pics of the new double decker buses? —TedBuehler