Rapid Transit Series
NYC Police Department TMC RTS 9598
RTS-06 model with narrow front door
GGT NovaBus RTS Single

RTS-08 model with wide front door (and bike rack in front)
Manufacturer GMC Truck and Bus (1977-1987)
Motor Coach Industries (1987-1995)
Nova Bus (1995-2003)
Millennium Transit Services (2006-2009)
Production 1977-2003, 2006-2009
Assembly Pontiac, Michigan (1977-1987)
Roswell, New Mexico (1987-2003, 2006-2009)
Saint-Eustache, Quebec (1997-2003)
Niskayuna, New York (1996-2003)
Predecessor GM New Look
Successor Nova Bus LFS
(when discontinued in 2003)
Engine(s) Detroit Diesel, Cummins, or Caterpillar engines
Transmission(s) 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)

The Rapid Transit Series (RTS) bus is a long-running series of transit buses originally manufactured by General Motors (the last generation of that company's long bus heritage) and was last produced by Millennium Transit Services as the RTS Legend until the company shut down production in 2009. 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 futuristic (at the time) styling featuring automobile-like curved body and window panels. That design has become as 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.

GMC sold the RTS design and patent rights to Transportation Manufacturing Corporation (TMC) of Roswell, New Mexico, 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 would sell the design and patents to NovaBus in September 1994 in the midst of an order for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Production under NovaBus would continue until 2002 when NovaBus left the U.S. market.

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.

The RTS was offered in 30-, 35-, and 40-foot (12 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 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, 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 (14 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[1]. 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-02 (1978–79): Produced for Pittsburgh's PATransit system.
  • 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 and Steinway Transit after they used the data learned to make changes in their order of RTS buses which became the RTS-04 model. Changes included improved Air Conditioning, which required a square rear end to provide for the larger hardware, tighter seals along the roof line and at the windows to prevent rain from entering the vehicle, larger windows, and push-out single panel rear doors. This last change was a carry-over from NYCTA's last two orders of Old Look buses, and has become standard on all buses they have ordered.
  • 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 60-foot (18 m) articulated version, the RTS Mega never reached past 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. 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 most obvious change eliminated the last window on each side. The front suspension for the -06 and later models was changed to a solid beam front axle.
  • 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): Easily spotted by the radically different front end and the presence of a slide-glide front door; the front door has been widened to be able to accommodate a wheelchair lift—resulting in a completely redesigned, flatter windshield. 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-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), a slightly modified version of the 08.
  • RTS Legend (2006–2009): 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.

Timeline of optionsEdit


A TMC built RTS owned by Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. This bus, since scrapped, has revised paint scheme adopted by MBTA in 2004. Was originally painted in a different scheme.

  • 1978: The first 35-foot (11 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 RTSEdit


TTC NovaBus -7240

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 1996, 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. Currently, the Toronto Transit Commission and the Société de transport de l'Outaouais of Gatineau, Quebec are the only transit agencies in Ontario and Quebec to use the RTS buses. The TTC has a current fleet of 52 buses and the STO has a fleet of 12 buses.

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.


Contrary to belief, the RTS design is and was not manufactured under license in other parts of the world.

Some confusion exists with certain models of Daewoo Bus's buses (BH115 and BH115E) in Asia, whose external styling closely resembles that of the RTS. However, their structure is completely different from the RTS's modular assembly and the two share no mechanical commonality.


  • GM as RTS 1977-1987
  • TMC as RTS 1987-1994
  • NovaBus as RTS 1994-2002
  • Millennium Transit Services as RTS Legend, Express, Extreme, Evolution 2003-2009
  • Dupont Industries - rebuilds of old Classics and renamed as Victoria

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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