Unitrans Turns 50: ‘Back to the Future’

Unitrans London double-decker 742 parked at the Memorial Union Terminal.
Bus No. 742 drops off passengers at the Memorial Union Terminal, where, on Thursday (Nov. 9), the double-decker will be part of a christening ceremony launching Unitrans’ 50th anniversary year. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)
Bus christening, from California Aggie newspaper
The christening, 1967, captured by The California Aggie.

Unitrans is going “Back to the Future” to launch the bus system’s 50th anniversary year! At 11:45 a.m. this Thursday (Nov. 9) we will have a re-creation of sorts of the bus christening ceremony of 1967 — complete with an appearance by alumna Lola Hogan to bust a bottle of beer on a London double-decker just like she did 50 years ago.

Back then, UC Davis was celebrating the arrival of its first two buses — used double-deckers that the Associated Students of UC Davis purchased from London.

This time around, we’ll be christening another of our London double-deckers (they have become UC Davis icons) and one of our newest buses, “to pay tribute to our past and usher in our future,” said Jeff Flynn ’05, a former student employee of Unitrans who returned last summer as the transit system’s general manager.

Hogan ’69 participated in the first christening, Nov. 10, 1967, in her role as representative-at-large in the ASUCD Legislative Assembly. She will be joined in the 50th anniversary ceremony by Josh Dalavai, who is the present-day ASUCD president. Hogan will christen vintage double-decker 742, and Dalavai will have the honor of christening the newer bus, single-deck 4012.

Other guests will include Adilla Jamaludin, ASUCD vice president; Mark Champagne, former ASUCD business manager; and Anthony Palmere, who retired in June as Unitrans general manager.


Unitrans double-decker bus 1014 back in London
Unitrans 1014, back in London.

“We’ll have a brief ceremony and we’ll break the bottles, and the Cal Aggie Marching Band will play just as they did 50 years ago,” Flynn said. Cookies and coffee will be served.

The University Transit System began operations on Feb. 28, 1968, so we’ll have more celebrating to do this coming February. Stay tuned for details.

For now, it’s all about the arrival of those first buses — RTL 1014 and RTL 1194 — which ran on two routes on and around campus. Today, Unitrans is a partnership between the ASUCD and the city of Davis, running 48 buses on 18 routes and carrying more than 4 million passengers a year, or about 22,000 a day.

The first 2 buses

About those first two buses: Unitrans sold 1194 in the 1970s, after having taken parts off it to keep 1014 going. Unitrans doesn’t know the whereabouts of 1194 or its condition today.

But we know the exact location of 1014: It’s back in England, part of the Ensignbus fleet of buses for hire. The ASUCD paid $3,000 for the double-decker in 1967 and sold it in 2012 for $7,000 plus shipping.

You can see photos of 1014 on the Ensignbus website. They include the one in the box above, and others that show the bus’s “ASUCD-City of Davis-Unitrans” logo and California license plate in an Aggie frame. Ensignbus describes 104 as “a London bus with a Californian accent!”

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