Rapid Transit Series

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Rapid Transit Series
Pioneer Express bus 784 turning into Lewis & Clark campus (2016).jpg
RTS-06 model with narrow front door
Manufacturer GMC Truck and Coach Division (1977–1987)
Motor Coach Industries (1987–1995)
Nova Bus (1995–2003)
Millennium Transit Services (2006–present)
Production 1977-2003, 2006-present
Assembly Pontiac, Michigan (1977–1987)
Roswell, New Mexico (1987–2003, 2006-onwards)
Saint-Eustache, Quebec (1997–2003)
Niskayuna, New York (1996–2003)
Designer Michael Lathers[1]
Body and chassis
Class City bus
Doors 1 door or 2 doors
Floor type Step entrance (RTS Legend and Express)/Semi low-floor (RTS Extreme)
Engine Detroit Diesel, Cummins, or Caterpillar engines
Transmission Allison or ZF transmissions
Wheelbase 178 in (4.52 m), 238 in (6.05 m), or 298 in (7.57 m)
Length 30 ft (9.14 m), 35 ft (10.67 m), or 40 ft (12.19 m)
Width 96 in (2.44 m) or 102 in (2.59 m)
Height 119 in (3.02 m)
(over roof-hatches; rooftop A/C, hybrid drive, or CNG options added to height)
Predecessor GM New Look
Successor Nova Bus LF Series
(when discontinued in 2003)

The Rapid Transit Series (RTS) city bus is a long-running series of transit buses originally manufactured by GMC Truck and Coach Division during 1977, in Pontiac, Michigan. First produced in 1977, the RTS was GMC's entry into the Advanced Design Bus project (the other entry was the Flxible Metro by competitor Flxible) and is the descendant of GMC's entry in the U.S. Department of Transportation's "Transbus" project. The RTS is notable for its then futuristic styling featuring automobile-like curved body and window panels. That design has become a classic, though remains more contemporary as that of its predecessor, the GMC New Look which had a curved windshield, but flat side glass and body panels. Most current buses are now made by specialized coach manufacturers with flat sides and windows.

RTS-06 WFD model with wide front door (and bike rack in front)

GMC sold the RTS design and patent rights to Transportation Manufacturing Corporation (TMC) of Roswell, New Mexico, a subsidiary of Motor Coach Industries in May 1987 though the two companies did a joint order for the New York City Transit Authority to prepare TMC for the production. TMC eventually sold the design and patents to NovaBus in September 1994 in the midst of an order for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Production under NovaBus continued until 2002 when NovaBus left the U.S. market and concentrated on its latest LFS low-floor design.

The production was revived, however, by Millennium Transit Services, who tried to manufacture the bus in both high- and low-floor configurations. However, after poor sales and failure to secure awarded deals, Millennium ceased production on the RTS and went out of business in 2009. In September 2011, MTS re-entered the market and have showcased their latest RTS product at the 2011 APTA Expo in New Orleans. It also announced plans to introduce a 42.5-foot (12.95 m) version of the standard floor RTS, which would go into production in the near future.

The RTS was offered in 30-foot (9.14 m)-, 35-foot (10.67 m)-, and 40-foot (12.19 m)-long models and was built using a modular design that allowed the same parts to be used for all three lengths, the longest of which could seat up to 47 passengers. It was originally powered by either 6- or 8-cylinder versions of Detroit Diesel's venerable Series 71 two-stroke diesel engine channeled through an Allison V730 or ZF 5HP-500 transmission. Later models could be powered by a 6-cylinder Series 92, or the 4-cylinder Series 50 engines.



The RTS is the descendant of GMC's entry for the Transbus project which in turn was the descendant of the RTX (Rapid Transit Experimental), an experimental model for which a prototype produced in 1968 with notes of its production dating to early as 1964. Both the RTX and the Transbus were similar in terms of design to the RTS though had major differences in having a less-rounded body design, a one-step entryway, and (in the case of the Transbus) a 45-foot (13.72 m) length.

Wanting a backup plan in the case that the Transbus project was abandoned, GMC decided to modify the RTX/Transbus design and in 1970 began the project that became the earliest RTS with the first prototype being assembled in 1973 at which point the project went onto hiatus. Though closer to its predecessors than the production models, the RTS name debuted with this prototype. After the project was revived in 1974, GMC would later withdraw from the Transbus project and focus their energies on the RTS.

Front of a Community Transit RTS
Rear view of a Community Transit RTS-06 bus


Through the history of the RTS, there have been six generations of production plus two experimental variants (one of which not having made it beyond the prototype stage).

  • RTS-01 (1977–78): Produced for a consortium of agencies in California, Massachusetts, and Texas, the RTS-01 was similar to the replacement RTS-03 only with some minor differences and a different style bumper.
  • RTS-03 (1978–80): The first mass-produced version of the RTS that gained popularity among transit authorities. NFTA Metro of Buffalo, New York received the first order of 96" RTS-03 Buses (Serial Numbers 001-065), whereas Detroit's DDOT received the first 102" order (Serial Numbers 001-070). The RTS-03 featured a modular design, which became the hallmark of the RTS; seamless, un-openable side windows; sliding ("plug") front and rear doors; and a distinctive, sloped rear module. The New York City Transit Authority ordered two RTS-03's as test vehicles, and sold one each to Green Bus Lines Inc., Queens Transit Corp. and Steinway Transit Corp. after they used the data learned to make changes in their order of RTS buses which became the RTS-04 model.
  • RTS-04 (1981–86): Introduced in the early 1980s, the RTS-04 eliminated the sloped rear end in order to house a larger air conditioning unit. The RTS-04 also introduced more pronounced side windows (and openable) that are similar to those featured in the latest RTS buses. These and previous models use independent front suspension. A 55-foot (17 m), 2 60-foot (18 m), and a 65-foot (19.81 m) articulated versions known as the RTS Mega were built, but never passed the prototype status. Most buses are given the option of tell-tale lights on each side of the destination sign; some were offered the lights on the backplate near the rear destination sign.
  • RTS-05 (1987): GMC's attempt to move the RTS to a T-drive configuration[clarification needed]. Rear module structure was heavily modified for the 'straight-in' arrangement, and would later be used as the design source for the Series 07.
  • RTS-06 (1986–2002): The most common RTS found today and the only one made by three manufacturers (GMC, TMC, NovaBus). The RTS-06 is extremely similar to the RTS-04, except for slightly different rear ends found in later models that house the Detroit Diesel Series 50 engine. The front suspension for the -06 and later models was changed to a solid beam front axle. LACMTA RTS-06 buses also had a different radiator in the back.
  • RTS-07 (1992): Experimental T-drive RTS; never put into mass production. The two models that were produced were for SMART in suburban Detroit.
  • RTS-08 (1989–94): Front Wheelchair equipped RTS. The Chicago Transit Authority had wanted a bus with a front wheelchair lift and a back window, and contracted TMC to create such a bus. Fifteen 96-inch (2.44 m)-wide RTS-08s were also produced, all of which went to the CTA. After NovaBus took over production, the RTS-08 was replaced by the RTS-06 WFD (Wide Front Door), which are easily differentiated by the radically different front end and the presence of a slide-glide front door.
  • RTS Legend (2006–present): The first Millennium Transit RTS, it is similar to the earlier RTS-06 with the differences of a T-drive configuration and a new front bumper. Wide-door models were reportedly available, but none were ever ordered. For a host of reasons, no more than 10 buses were built before the contracts were cancelled; rejected coaches were resold to Foxwoods Resort Casino, Somerset County Transportation, and Texas A&M University.
  • RTS Extreme (Production never started): The first semi low-floor version of the RTS.
  • RTS Express (Production never started): RTS variant for "express" suburban use, with suburban seating and other features commonly found on motorcoaches.

Timeline of options[edit]

  • 1978: The first 35-foot (10.67 m) RTS's are offered as is the option of electronic destination signs (as opposed to rollsigns).
  • 1979: Rear door GM-designed wheelchair lifts were made available.
  • 1981: With an order by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (for NYCTA and cousin organization MABSTOA), the option of a pop-open rear door is offered. This option becomes commonplace mostly in large cities as well as with the RTS-08. Also, a set of tell-tale lights were also offered; these lights can be found on each side of the front destination lights. The MBTA has green lights, while NYCTA buses have orange lights.
  • 1984: A one-door suburban variant is offered for the first time, this is soon retired due to a combination of poor sales and decreased wheelchair access. It would be offered again in WFD form under NovaBus.
  • 1986: Methanol-powered RTS's are produced in limited quality, these are the first alternatively fueled RTS buses.
  • 1989: Compressed natural gas-powered RTS's enter production.
  • 1996: First 30-foot (9.1 m) RTS's produced, some production is moved to the NovaBus plant in Niskayuna, New York.
  • 2001: A test order of diesel-electric hybrid RTS's are produced for the aforementioned NYCTA and New Jersey Transit (one of which is shown above).

Foreign usage of RTS[edit]


A diesel Nova Bus RTS WFD owned by Toronto Transit Commission.

At the time the RTS entered production in the U.S., GMDD (GMC's Canadian production arm) considered producing the RTS for the Canadian market. However, an outcry of protest from key transit providers over not wanting the "futuristic" RTS led GMDD to produce the Classic, an updated New Look that was first produced in 1983. The Classic would prove popular with US agencies as well.

When the Classic was retired in 1997, NovaBus decided to begin limited production of the RTS for the Canadian market. Produced from 1997 to 2001, most of the RTS models made for Canadian agencies were the RTS-06 WFD variant with the majority being sold to agencies in the eastern part of the country. Notably, the Toronto Transit Commission in Ontario operated a fleet of 52 buses built in 1998 while Société de transport de l'Outaouais in Quebec had 12 buses built in 2000.

Quebec-based Dupont Trolley Industries, specializing in rebuilding buses, previously offered a rebuilt RTS known as the Victoria with several styling changes. These buses are fairly uncommon, with most examples found in the fleets of transit operators in Montréal's suburbs (CIT Roussillon, Sainte-Julie public transit, CIT Chambly-Richelieu-Carignan).


From 1985 to 1997 Daewoo Bus built the BH115, a bus originally styled in a manner similar to the RTS. Despite Daewoo catalogs allegedly claiming it to be an export version of the RTS, its body structure is completely different, boasting underfloor baggage compartments, and sporting no modular construction. This bus is frequently assumed to be a foreign variant of an RTS, but apart from appearance, it shares nothing with it. The BH115 was later restyled to distance itself visually from the RTS.[2]

However, General Motors did briefly consider building small quantities of the RTS at its GM Holden's subsidiary in Australia. A press release was issued noting the feasibility study, but no production commenced. Additionally, General Motors' Diesel Division in London, Ontario, Canada, also launched a study into building RTS coaches within its facilities, but never actually built any coaches.


  • GMC as RTS 1977–1987
  • TMC as RTS 1987–1994
  • NovaBus as RTS 1994–2002
  • Millennium Transit Services as RTS Legend, Express, Extreme, Evolution 2003–present
  • Dupont Industries - rebuilds of old RTSes and renamed as Victoria

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bus Body". 
  2. ^ "대우 로얄고속버스 와 '거시기'들". 네이버 블로그 - 일상 얘기. 

External links[edit]