A two-year pilot program to put electric buses on the street was rolled out Monday by the Metropolitan Transit District with passengers getting on board one of the green machines at the 24th Street Transit Center in National City.
The launch follows several weeks of route validation and bus operator training on multiple routes around San Diego.
“I’m so excited to be driving this bus,” said MTS Bus Operator Sergio Carrillo. “This is like a before and after moment for us. I’m excited that now we have this new tool, electric buses, to give a better service to our passengers and the community.”
The new bus served Route 13 to Kaiser Hospital. It’s the first of six electric buses that the pilot program will put into motion, and has an average range of 150 miles per charge.
The existing MTS fleet of 40- and 60-foot fixed route buses is fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG). State regulations require public transit agencies to gradually transition to all-ZEB fleets by 2040. MTS is preparing for that mandate by initiating this pilot program, which allows MTS staff to analyze vehicle performance under various conditions and train drivers on the most efficient driving habits.
The new buses include the newest on-board video surveillance systems, enhanced wheelchair restraint systems with forward-facing safety barriers, and fully electric air conditioning and engine coolant systems. Additionally, the new buses will be noticeably quieter.
The Board-approved budget for the pilot program is $12.5 million, including a combination of bus and infrastructure costs, and design/consulting/project management expenses. This pilot program is funded by the combination of a Caltrans grant, California Air Resources Board (CARB) offsets, funding from the state’s Low Carbon Transit Operations Program and its Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project, as well as the MTS Capital Improvement Program.
“Our focus is on providing the highest level of service for our riders and achieving the maximum return on our investments,” said MTS Chief Executive Officer Paul Jablonski. “Getting these buses on the roads will immediately improve the air quality in the communities we serve while arming us with the performance data and operational insights necessary to build an effective transition plan.”
— Staff report