Electric bus
A San Diego Metropolitan Transit System electric buse. Photo by Chris Stone

 Continuing its commitment to cleaner air and expanding transit access, the Metropolitan Transit System board on Thursday approved the first electric Rapid bus route, with service beginning in the fall.

The Rapid 227 route will link the Otay Mesa Transit Center to neighborhoods along the Imperial Beach shores as well as the Blue Line Trolley at the Iris Avenue Transit Center.

“The beginning of the region’s first electric Rapid route is a huge leap forward towards a greener future, environmental justice, sustainability and better air quality,” said Nathan Fletcher, MTS Board chair and San Diego County Supervisor.

“When Iris Rapid is in full operation, MTS will have 25 electric buses operating in its fleet, with hundreds more on the way. This will be a great milestone to reach as we transition to an all-zero emissions bus fleet by 2040.”

Powering Rapid 227 will be 12 sixty-foot battery-electric buses provided by New Flyer of America. New Flyer has supplied more than 600 buses to MTS in the past 30 years. The new battery-electric buses are currently in various stages of production and will soon begin arriving in San Diego. 

The new electric buses serving Rapid 227 will be stationed out of the agency’s bus facility in Chula Vista. At this bus division, MTS is finalizing construction of a $8.5 million overhead gantry charging system capable of charging 24 battery-electric buses at a time, and will be expandable to add more charging capacity as MTS transitions to an all-electric fleet in the coming years.

The total cost of the Rapid 227 project is $37 million to purchase the 12 battery-electric buses and add the necessary infrastructure. Funding came from a mix of California Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program and Low Carbon Transit Operations Program grants, and MTS’s Capital Improvement Program.

In September 2020, the MTS Board approved a transition plan to convert all of the agency’s 750 buses to zero-emission by 2040, with the last natural gas-powered bus purchased in 2028.

In February 2021, MTS retired the last diesel bus in its fleet.