SamTrans’s first hybrid bus made its debut last week at the transit district’s board meeting. The energy-efficient buses, the first in the SamTrans fleet, produce fewer emissions and use less fuel than diesel-powered buses.
“I think it’s terrific that we are getting into this new technology,” said SamTrans Board Chair Carole Groom, “that we are part of the ‘save the environment movement.’”
The first bus is expected to hit the streets in mid-December with the remaining buses going into service by mid-2014.
The low-floor buses use long-life, maintenance-free batteries to capture and store braking energy and advanced solid state controllers to manage and blend power sources. For the community and SamTrans riders this means reduced emissions and smoother, quieter buses. For SamTrans it means using less fuel, which translates into lower operating costs.
SamTrans received $4.9 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to purchase the diesel electric hybrid buses. All the buses are being manufactured by Gillig of Hayward, which means the federal funds are providing jobs for Bay Area workers.
The purchase is part of a $32.2 million contract for a total of 62 buses. The remaining buses are powered by modern diesel technology. The buses are replacing 1998 buses, the oldest vehicles in the SamTrans fleet. The new buses are expected to save $3 million in fuel costs over the next 12 years.
The diesel electric hybrid buses will produce 90 percent fewer NOx emissions than the 1998 buses they are replacing. The fuel technology used in the new diesel buses has engine emission certification levels that are the same as those found in buses powered by compressed natural gas.
The new 40-foot buses will be used throughout SamTrans service area and can carry up to 39 seated passengers with up to another 24 riders standing. Like all SamTrans buses, the new buses have priority seating for seniors and people with disabilities and exterior bike racks that can accommodate up to two bikes.
The hybrid buses are nearly identical in appearance to the diesel buses purchased under the same contract and include the same upgrades that improve safety and comfort for riders. The wheelchair ramp has a gradual incline, which makes it easier for riders to board the bus. The buses even offer smart technology features, such as interior, energy-efficient LED lighting, equipped with sensors that measure the ambient light. On bright, sunny days, the lights turn down and when it is dark outside, the lights are brighter. The rear door also is modernized to open automatically when a passenger stands on the exit stairs and touches the door.
To keep the buses in optimum condition, SamTrans mechanics will receive more than 3,700 hours in additional training. Bus operators also will receive additional training; every SamTrans bus operator is expected to be able to operate every bus in the fleet.
The buses are part of a fleet of 313 SamTrans vehicles that provide transportation for more than 40,000 people every weekday. Most SamTrans riders are going to school or work and 77 percent do not have access to a car.