After 42 years of service at Six Flags Magic Mountain, the old green parking lot trams are finally being retired. They are being replaced with a fleet of six articulated buses. One of the new Magic Mountain buses was formally unveiled to the public on February 27, 2013.
The old trams were original to the park in 1971, and some of those were even bought used at the time, so they’re even older than the park itself. A few months ago, Six Flags was able to acquire six slightly used articulated buses at a big discount. Each bus cost about half of what it would have cost to buy a new theme park style tram. The buses also come with additional benefits such as increased safety, higher capacity, more passenger comfort, and lower maintenance expenses.
The buses arrived plain white and the park has been busy applying graphics to them. The park also needs to complete other activities before they can put them into service. Training is a very big issue, as there’s a lot more to driving one of these than a standard tram. They also need to alter the tram routes as there are no “doors” on the driver’s side, which is where most loading/unloading occurs today. The bus below is parked where the tram would normally unload in front of the park. With no doors, it will need to come from the other direction:
In addition to the graphics on the sides, advertising can go on the front and back as well:
Unlike the existing trams, where every row can load simultaneously, the buses only have two doors on the passenger side: one in front and one in back. The park is going to install two sets of queues at each load point to assist with orderly loading. When you board through the front door, it looks just like an ordinary city bus, but without the payment stand:
It doesn’t look like the interiors have been modified at all. I think my quick and dirty count came up with 64 seats. Passengers will be allowed to stand as well, so that should increase capacity by roughly another 30 people, or close to 100 people total:
It’s interesting that there are seats located in the articulating section, where the bus bends:
Another advantage the buses have over a regular tram is the ability to handle wheelchairs. A couple of seats flip up to provide a place for a chair to sit. This is a prime example of the kinds of additional training that a bus driver needs over a tram driver:
Although we only got to see the Full Throttle bus, the other buses are receiving different graphics packages. This is what the Tatsu bus looks like:
Applying the graphics is an interesting process. It looks like they tape the giant graphic onto the side of the bus where they want it to go. Then through the use of either a heat gun or a sticky back, they start to adhere the graphic to the bus a little bit at a time, being careful not to trap any air bubbles underneath:
The parts that aren’t needed, like the clear plastic on the windows and the section over the wheel well above, are cut away and discarded, leaving only the wanted portion behind:
Here’s another bus I spotted out back. It has the graphic taped onto the side, ready to be applied. I think that’s a diagram taped to the window showing exactly where the graphics are supposed to go on the bus. I’m not sure what coaster that is, though. It has a blue car with a yellow lap bar. I’m almost thinking it’s a generic coaster photo from another park, even though the text in the orange background says “Thrill Capital of the World”:
Still no official ETA on when we will see these rolled out. If I were to guess, I would say sometime by the end of March. When they do, the park has already confirmed that they will be used exclusively. They will not be using any of the older trams for anything, even internal use. As far as what to call them, the park said that they will likely use the words bus and tram interchangeably, so go ahead and call them whatever you prefer.