LIVERMORE -- A little piece of Livermore transit history has been refurbished, repainted and refueled and will soon roll into a variety of city festivals and parades -- albeit without passengers.
A single Rideo bus, a 1962 relic of Livermore's first fleet of city buses, has undergone a $230,000 facelift and will be used as a display by the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority, also known as Wheels.
Although it will be used as an educational display, it's unlikely the bus will ever be allowed to carry passengers because it doesn't have a passenger lift to allow handicapped access.
The name Rideo originated as a playful nod to Livermore's western roots.
"It's part of Livermore's history, along with the rodeo and cowboy culture," said Wheels Executive Director Paul Matsuoka. "It was our first public bus system ... and has silhouettes of horse heads on it."
The Rideo buses started serving the city in the 1960s. By the 1980s, residents in nearby Pleasanton and Dublin opted to discontinue their AC Transit bus service, and form a new Tri-Valley transit agency. LAVTA was established in 1985, and Livermore's Rideo system was absorbed into the agency by the summer of 1987. The buses were repainted to match the rest of the LAVTA fleet, blotting out the horse-head design.
As time went by, Matsuoka said, the old fleet was slowly replaced by new buses.
"We retained this bus, and surplused the rest," he said. "For whatever reason, we kept one sitting in the corner of our yard gathering dust and spider webs and all sorts of varmints who made their homes in the bus."
This bus' resurrection began in 2008, when transit board members, including Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, wondered what could be done with the aging hulk.
"Scott is very active in a lot of regional transportation issues and he said he thought he could get $200,000 from the Transportation Enhancement Fund, which is federal money," Matsuoka said. "One of the eligible uses of that is to restore historic structures or vehicles. He asked if that would be enough to fix up the bus."
The agency got estimates and eventually used $200,000 in enhancement funds and about $30,000 of its own funds to restore the bus, Matsuoka said.
"With any federal grant you have to put up a local share," he added.
The bus spent the past year-and-a-half in Stockton and Turlock, receiving everything from a new engine and drive train to new interior seats and fresh paint -- including the original horse-head logo.
Unfortunately, residents will have to admire the rejuvenated bus at a standstill -- the combined grant and LAVTA funds were enough to do a basic historical restoration, but not enough to bring the vehicle up to today's standards for ridership, Matsuoka said.
"I did talk with Scott at the time and asked if he envisioned it running in service," he said. "But that would have added so much money that we said let's just refurbish it and call it a day."
That means the bus sports an original-style stick shift, but does not include modern amenities such as automatic passenger counters, an automatic vehicle locating system, security cameras with DVR recorders or a fare box. It also does not have a wheelchair lift, and as such does not meet current requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act,It will be displayed at various public events as a historic -- but static -- display. It won't carry riders or likely anyone other than a driver. There is a chance
the bus could accompany Livermore Heriage Guild's Historymobile to certain events, Matsuoka said.
LAVATA Board member Haggerty said he hopes the Rideo might eventually be able to be used for school field trips or perhaps as a community shuttle during the holidays, if a way could be found to meet the required standards. The refurbishment was worth the cost, even if the bus can't currently carry riders, Haggerty said.
"What I saw was a piece of history rotting away, and I thought it would be important to preserve it," he said. "I'd like to see it become a showpiece as a history of transit past in the Tri-Valley."
Brian Bonner, 65, has lived in Livermore since 1976, and remembers using the Rideo buses. At that time he was working as a scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and taking graduate courses at UC Berkeley.
"The reason I remember them is that I don't drive," he said. "I rode Rideo a lot. I mostly used them to make connections to the Bay Area and BART."
Bonner said he suspects residents will enjoy seeing the refurbished bus with its signature horse-head logo but regrets that it won't carry passengers.
"That's a real shame," he said. "But It always astonishes me how much interest there is in (restored vehicles). "And I think it would be pretty neat to see it in the rodeo parade."