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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 is currently produced by Millennium Transit Services as the RTS Legend. First produced in 1977, the RTS was GMC's entry into the Advanced Design Bus project 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 a curved body and window panels and that the design has become timeless as that of its predecessor, the GMC New Look.

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 as the RTS Legend. Millennium Transit Services has since released three additional variants of the RTS:

  • RTS Express: A suburban/coach variation of the RTS with a wide front door.
  • RTS Extreme: A low floor/wide front door variation of the RTS.
  • RTS Evolution: A lighter-duty variant of the RTS designed for on-demand service and paratransit service.

The RTS was offered in 30-, 35-, and 40-foot-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 is powered by a GM 8V-71 or 6V-92 turbo diesel engine channeled through an Allison V730/V731 or Voith/ZF transmission.

History of the RTSEdit


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 1969 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 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.


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. 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.
  • RTS-04 (1981-86): Introduced in the early 1980s, the RTS-04 eliminated the sloped rear end in order to house an 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.
  • RTS-05: A 60-foot articulated RTS-03 that was not put into mass production; it was strictly an experimental model. Known as the RTS-Mega
  • 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.
  • 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. After NovaBus took over production, the RTS-08 was replaced by the RTS-06 WFD.
  • RTS Legend (2006-present): The first Millennium Transit RTS, it is similar to the earlier RTS-06 with the differences of a T-drive (moving the rear door one module up), a redesigned bumper, and a front that is somewhat similar to the RTS-08. The RTS Legend is currently undergoing evaluation at New Jersey Transit with full production starting in November 2006.

Timeline of optionsEdit

  • 1978: The first 35-foot RTS's are offered as is the option of electronic destination signs (as opposed to rollsigns).
  • 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.
  • 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 RTS's produced, limited east coast 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.

Foreign usage of RTS'sEdit


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, a updated New Look that was first produced in 1983.

When the Classic was retired in 1996, NovaBus decided to begin limited production of the RTS for Canadian authority. Produced from 1997 to 2001, most of the RTS models made for Canadian authorities were of the RTS-06 WFD variant with the majority being sold to agencies in the eastern part of the country.


The RTS design is made, under license, by various companies in the Middle East and Asia. Among the companies holding the license is Korean-based Daewoo whose North American operations are ironically presently owned, in part, by General Motors.


  • The RTS has been made into scale models for the collectible market as well as into piggy banks which are often sold by many transit authorities.
  • A keychain of an RTS-inspired bus is sold at the New York Transit Museum at both its primary location and its annex in Grand Central Terminal.
  • Hot Wheels released a body with the sloping rear called "Rapid Transit" as well as an accompanying rub-on tattoo.

See alsoEdit

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