Sunday, September 4, 2016

Electric Buses

According to Foothill Transit's website, in 2014, Line 291 began operating "exclusively using electric buses, making it the FIRST fast charge electric BUS LINE in the U.S."  Image: Foothill Transit website.
Foothill Transit, the main bus agency that serves the San Gabriel Valley, runs a bus line that is only powered by electric buses that draw power from batteries on board the vehicle.  The line, Line 291, mainly follows a north-south route along Garey Avenue, which passes through Pomona's Downtown and also passes by Pomona's two Metrolink commuter rail stations.

I had never seen Downtown Pomona or ridden on a battery-powered electric bus, so I decided to try out both today.  Downtown Pomona is pretty small, and kind of quiet on a Sunday morning, but it has some obvious urban bones and some interesting older buildings.

The Mayfair Hotel, Garey Avenue, Downtown Pomona
The electric bus itself was just like a typical city bus, except maybe a bit smaller.  The ride was unremarkable, feeling and working just like any other bus.

What is remarkable is the fact that the bus is electric.  In order to confront global warming, we're going to have to get off of fossil fuels.  Transportation is a big part of that, and city buses have to play their part.  When buses are well used, they can be much more efficient than moving people in individual cars.  When they are little used, their efficiency gains are marginal or even negative.  In either case, electric propulsion has no emissions at the vehicle and the electricity can (and should) be generated from renewable sources like wind and solar.

As Los Angeles County has developed a rail system, I've noticed that one of the really cool things about it is the fact that almost everybody can afford to use an electric vehicle.  We're not talking about an expensive $70,000 Tesla.  We're talking about paying $1.75 to get on an electric train powered by overhead wires.  Sustainability for the masses you might say, but only if you're lucky enough to be close to rail.  Well, doing that for buses is important too.  Buses almost always cover more ground than trains in U.S. cities.  Buses are also much less loved by many transit fans than trains.  Part of that has to do with the lack of electric propulsion.  By making buses electric we can bring sustainable transportation to many more people of all income levels in our metro areas.  The one way fare in this case is just $1.25.

Foothill transit says its bus fleet will be 100% electric by 2030.  Hopefully that's not just talk, and other agencies will follow suit.

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