How do they do that? is a new series for The Source that explores the technology that helps keep Metro running and passengers and other commuters moving. Some of it applies directly to the trains, buses and freeways and some of it runs in the background — invisible to nearly everyone but essential to mobility in our region.
How do they wash those tall buses?
It’s a good soap-water-and-wax cleaning for Metro buses, which pass through massive bus washers followed by blow dryers like those we use for our cars. But that’s where the similarities end. For one thing, the buses are washed daily. For another, their very size makes hand drying impossible. A typical 45-foot bus is 11 feet high and weighs 19 tons. A 60-foot bus is 11 feet high and 21 tons.
Each of Metro’s 11 bus maintenance facilities has at least one bus washer, maybe two, depending on the number of buses assigned there. Maintenance facilities are sprinkled all over L.A. County to make them more accessible to the 2,000-plus buses in Metro’s fleet as it navigates 1,400 square miles of service area.
The special bus washing machines are constructed on the spot, just for Metro. Most have bristle brushes — so out of fashion for our cars but so good for buses, which are constantly out in sun, wind, weather and traffic. Buses are washed once a day. And every four months or so they go in for a detailed cleaning, sort of like the detailing we get for our cars.
To clean the interiors, service attendants use high-pressure air to blow out the debris. The debris is then sucked into a giant vacuum and deposited into a trash compactor that makes a large paper ball out of what can be a significant amount of refuse … despite the fact that no food or drink is supposed to be consumed inside the buses.
The attendants hand clean the bus interiors with soap and water and towels, with window cleaner for the glass and stainless steel cleaner for the metal surfaces. It takes approximately 20 minutes to fuel, blow and wipe out the interiors, drive through the bus wash and park. And it means an average of 120 Metro employees on any given day are working to keep the buses clean.