The first of six New Flyer battery-electric buses acquired by the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) began serving passengers, setting in motion the two-year electric bus pilot program first announced earlier this fall.
The historic first trip departed the 24th Street Transit Center in National City, serving passengers of Route 13 to Kaiser Hospital. The launch of passenger service follows several weeks of route validation and bus operator training on multiple routes around San Diego.
MTS’s existing 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 the pilot program, which allows MTS staff to analyze vehicle performance under various conditions and train drivers on the most efficient driving habits.
“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.”
The electric buses have an average estimated range of 150 miles per charge. After 18 months of testing and modeling, MTS will have an accurate and holistic picture of the operational realities to present to the MTS board as the agency develops a road map to transition to a full zero-emissions fleet.
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.
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. The program is funded by the combination of a Caltrans grant, California Air Resources Board 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.