Thanks for the Lift, Unitrans!

Three vintage double-decker buses at start of parade
Unitrans’ vintage fleet leads the birthday parade, Friday (March 4), coming out of the Memorial Union Terminal, on Howard Way, headed for downtown Davis. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Unitrans gave all of us a lift Friday (March 4) —  and we’re not just talking about the free rides all day throughout the campus-city bus system.

Seeing and riding the system's vintage double-decker buses gave Unitrans staff and the campus community an emotional lift as well. Unitrans put its red buses from London into service for the first time in two years (the pandemic had kept them sidelined), running a lunchtime shuttle between the Memorial Union and downtown Davis, in celebration of the ASUCD-run transit system’s 54th birthday.

People, refreshments and swag in front of modern double-decker bus
Unitrans treated guests to refreshments and swag at the Memorial Union Terminal.
People board vintage double-decker bus
Climbing aboard at the Memorial Union Terminal. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

The bus system started running on Feb. 28, 1968, with two buses just like those that were running Friday. In the half-century-plus since, the double-deckers have become UC Davis icons. Half the student body, however, had never before had the opportunity to ride one.

Hundreds of people turned out for the birthday party, including 10 or so of the system’s original employees, said Jeff Flynn, general manager.

Others were taking their first rides on the vintage double-deckers. People like Becky Grunewald, a program manager in Environmental Health and Safety, who has worked at UC Davis since 2003. “I got a little emotional riding on the bus around Davis,” she told Dateline UC Davis. “I think Unitrans is such a cool organization, and I love that it’s student run.

“People were waving and honking and it really felt like a celebration. The antique buses are so quirky and unique to Davis.”

Besides the lunchtime shuttle, the celebration included a parade at noon featuring three vintage double-deckers and two of Unitrans’ modern double-deckers, and refreshments and swag at the MU Terminal.

Boy sits on father's lap, aboard vintage double-decker bus
A future Unitrans, driver, perhaps? (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Flynn was optimistic the celebration would lead to the recruitment of at least a few more students as drivers, to help offset a serious shortage that has hampered Unitrans’ ability to fully restore service.

Flynn said the Unitrans staff continued the celebration vibe at a mini road-eo at the bus yard Saturday and a bonfire gathering that night outside the Putah Creek Lodge.

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Dateline Staff: Dave Jones, editor, 530-752-6556,; Cody Kitaura, News and Media Relations specialist, 530-752-1932,

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