An MTS prototype electric bus in Barrio Logan. Courtesy of the transit agency

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System‘s board of directors voted unanimously Thursday to convert all of the agency’s 800 buses to zero emissions by 2040 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The transition plan will now be sent to the California Air Resources Board for certification. State regulations require public transit agencies to gradually transition to entirely zero-emission bus fleets by 2040.

“This is a historic moment for our region. I’d like to thank the MTS Board and staff, and hundreds of stakeholders who have worked together to create this transition plan,” said San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who chairs the board. “It’s a responsible plan that will create greener, cleaner and better-connected transit system in San Diego.”

The zero-emissions transition plan approved by the board will serve as the agency’s blueprint to get all vehicles in the fleet to zero emissions. The agency plans to purchase its last gas-powered bus in 2028.

“MTS has been testing six electric buses in revenue service over the past 10 months and we’ve been very pleased with their performance,” said Sharon Cooney, the transit system’s CEO. “The performance data makes us confident that we can make a transition to an entire fleet of zero-emissions buses over the next 19 years, and continue to provide the highest quality of service our passengers expect and deserve.”

Some key components of the plan include cutting the agency’s greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 43% over the next 19 years, rolling back the planned purchase of five compressed natural-gas buses in 2021 and purchasing electric buses instead, and prioritizing zero-emission bus implementation in disadvantaged communities, which often experience the most negative impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and environmental health.

The full transition is estimated to cost $851 million over the next 19 years and approximately $185 million to acquire land and build a new facility to accommodate additional electric buses needed to continue the current level of service.

The six currently operating electric buses will be joined by two more later this year. The buses have an average estimated usable range of 150 miles per charge. MTS’ standard 40- and 60-foot buses are fueled by compressed natural gas.

Updated at 5 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020

–City News Service

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