AC Transit has received an $8.5 million grant sponsored by the California Air Resources Board to participate in a program designed to decrease greenhouse gases and improve the quality of public health, while additional funds awarded from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District will go toward acquiring 10 zero-emission electric buses.
The increase in zero-emission buses from 13 to 23 will provide a way to track both the reduction and amount of harmful gases released into the atmosphere, according to Robert Lyles, AC Transit media affairs manager. In doing so, the agency hopes to improve the “environment and health of the vulnerable communities” in the state of California.
“We are excited to receive this new award of innovative green technology buses,” said AC Transit board member H.E. Christian Peeples in a press release. “AC Transit has already operating a small fleet of next-generation buses and this award will allow for a dramatic leap forward in meeting the Advanced Clean Transit Regulations target of operating all zero-emission buses by the year 2040.”
The new buses are part of a larger effort called the HyRoad program, which was initiated by AC Transit in 2005 and began with only three zero-emission buses serving 700,000 passengers. Twelve years later, the numbers have increased to 13 zero-emission buses, which transport approximately 15 million passengers throughout the Bay Area. This method of transportation permits people to travel without emitting harmful gases — specifically greenhouse gases — into the atmosphere, Lyles said.
In order to qualify for the grant, all applicants are scored based on multiple factors, including cost effectiveness, potential for project scalability and benefits to disadvantaged communities.
“This new award will bring our total up to 23, which would put us on a positive track throughout our entire fleet,” Lyles said. “What this program allows is for a transit agency to measure how successful a zero-emission engine is in comparison to diesel engines.”
By proving that these zero-emission buses can serve as a “one-for-one replacement for diesel,” the goal is to replace diesel engines in the buses with a more environmentally friendly alternative, said AC Transit general manager Michael Hursh in the press release.
The program also allows for AC Transit to track how effectively the buses are running from year to year by measuring the overall efficiency of the buses as well as taking into account how the buses can gain greater mileage and operate on hills.
“Our current fleet of zero-emission buses need only be fueled once a day and they perform admirably for miles along our vast transit network and its challenging topography,” Hursh said.
The 40-foot buses will be built by New Flyer, a zero-emission vehicle manufacturing company. Project management and oversight has been assigned to the Center for Transportation and the Environment.
“It’s like Disneyland in the real world,” Peeples said. “For passengers, they are a more comfortable and quieter ride — they’re even cleaner than our green diesels.”
The additional buses are anticipated to be delivered in the Bay Area and begin daily service by December 2018.