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The Orion V Bus

Orion V Schematic, seen here as the CNG model

Click on the diagram to see a full schematic

Text by James Bow and Robert Lubinski
Additional contributions by Jelo Gutierrez Cantos

See Also

Charter Reports

A Heavy Duty Model

In the early 1990s, Ontario Bus Industries began looking for a new design to replace its aging Orion I vehicles. Mindful of transit agencies’ desire for a bus able to serve heavy duty routes, as well as stinging from the corrosion problems that afflicted the Orion IIIs, OBI upgraded their design. The result was the Orion V, a 40 foot bus that was six inches wider than previous models and more solidly built.

The first Orion V was produced in 1989 for Mississauga Transit. Orion would continue to produce this model until late 2008, making it one of the longest running models of the company. The Orion V was one of the earliest models of buses in North America to use compressed natural gas (CNG) as a fuel. In 1996, a prototype diesel-electric hybrid Orion V was produced in conjunction with General Electric. Another hybrid Orion V was built in 2003 and currently runs for Fresno Area Express in Fresno, California.

The Orion V is also available in a suburban/commuter configuration with a single door, reclining seats, and parcel racks. Agencies running them today are in places such as York Region, Niagara Falls, Regina, Vancouver, New York City, Washington, and many more. The final orders of the Orion V in 2008 were for Translink as the last built for an Canadian transit agency, Bee-Line in Westchester County, New York for diesels, and Sonoma County Transit for CNG-powered buses.

The Workhorses

Through 1991 and 1992, the Toronto Transit Commission took delivery of 106 Orion Vs, replacing the commission’s older GM ‘New Look’ models. The Orion Vs were numbered 6640-6745 and came equipped with air conditioning, power steering, vandal-proof seats and easier accessibility features (but not wheelchair lifts). The buses of this class were originally allocated in three groups to Birchmount, Queensway and Davenport divisions. During their career, they were also operated out of Eglinton and Malvern divisions and were eventually split between Birchmount and Queensway divisions. With the opening of the Mount Dennis division in November 2008, the Orion Vs were consolidated there until their retirement. The last bus of this class (6734) was retired in April 2010.

The Compressed Natural Gas Experiment

TTC also ordered 25 Orion Vs powered by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fuel which were based out of the Wilson division (numbered 9370-9394). At the time, the provincial government and Ontario Bus Industries promised that the new fuel would offer significant reductions in emissions, which could allow these buses to replace the TTC’s aging trolley bus fleet. Unfortunately, these buses did not live up to their promise. The buses required a special fuelling station, and safety issues from the tank and how the gas behaved in the event of a leak prevented the TTC from running these buses into certain subway station bus terminals.

After the turn of the century, the TTC began phasing out its natural gas fuel program, converting some of the CNG buses to diesel operation, using Cummins M11 engines. Bus 9402 was the first to be converted, receiving a new diesel engine (from a retired Flyer D40-90) in the summer of 2002. Bus 9400 was converted in early 2004 and the rest followed shortly afterward.

The Orion V Buses Get a Lift

In 1996, the TTC launched an effort to establish fully-accessible bus service on its surface network. Buses with wheelchair lifts could allow passengers on wheelchairs to travel on regular service routes, rather than relying on WheelTrans. A total of 185 Orion V buses were ordered, each with these lifts. Of these, 135 (numbered 7000-7134) were diesel-powered while the remaining 50 (numbered 9400-9449) were powered by compressed natural gas. The diesel buses were assigned to Arrow Road and Malvern divisions, where they replaced the aging and dilapidated Orion III articulated buses. The CNG buses were assigned to Wilson garage.

These buses were also the first to be equipped with Luminator’s “MegaMax” destination signs, offering more flip-dots to provide greater visibility for passengers looking to see where their bus was heading. As with the earlier Orion V series, these buses were equipped with air conditioning and enhanced passenger assistance features.

The 50 CNG buses were initially part of an order for 100 CNG-powered Orion VI low floor accessible buses, but because these buses took too long to manufacture and deliver, and the TTC was desperate for equipment to handle rising ridership, half of this order was changed to lift-equipped Orion Vs instead.

Waning Years

When the new Eglinton garage was opened off Comstock Road in 2002, a number of Orion V lift-equipped buses were reassigned to the new division to provide accessible service on several downtown routes for the first time.. At the same time, these buses went through their mid-life rebuilds, ensuring reliable operation for the next few years. As the Orion VIIs started to appear later that decade, however, the Orion Vs were consolidated at Malvern division, and generally operated in the eastern and northern parts of the series.

By 2011, as the last non-accessible buses were removed from service, replaced by low-floor buses, the Orion Vs days were numbered. The consensus was that ramp-equipped low-floor buses were better and more accessible than lift-equipped buses, but the Orion Vs still had more miles in them. As the NovaBus low-floor LFS articulated buses started arriving in 2013, the Orion Vs started to be retired. Railfans set up a number of farewell charters, marking the end of high-floor bus operation on the TTC. Soon, they were operated as rush hour extras, and #7106 was assigned to Toronto Island.

On February 15, 2015, the last Orion Vs operating out of Malvern garage were retired, but the remainder operating out of Wilson garage remained in service due to problems with the Orion VII hybrid buses keeping a number out of service. The need for increased service during the 2015 Pan-Am games provided another late stay of execution. As of October 2015, thirty remained in service.

The TTC Orion V Bus Roster


Fleet Numbers






Orion V




40 feet



Orion V




40 feet



Orion V




40 feet



Orion V




40 feet


Converted to diesel 

Principal Specifications

  • Model - 05.501
  • Seating - 39 (#9370-#9394, #6640-#6745), 36 (#7000-#7134), 37 (#9400-#9449)
  • Length - 12,408mm (40’)
  • Width - 2,591mm(102”)
  • Engine - Detroit Diesel 6V92TA 253 bhp @ 2100 rpm, Detroit Diesel Series 50 275 bhp @ 2100 rpm, Cummins L10G 240 hp @ 2100 rpm, Cummins M11 280 hp @ 2100 rpm
  • Transmission - Allison World B-400R 5 speed, ZF - Ecomat model #HP 500 4 speed (older)

Orion V Image Archive


  • Articulated Bus, Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), 1990.
  • Bus World Encyclopedia of Buses, Stauss Publications, Woodland Hills (California), 1988.
  • Diesel City Bus, Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), 1991.
  • Orion International.” - CPTDB Wiki. Canadian Public Transit Discussion Board, 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 21 July 2014.
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