NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

King County Metro moves towards zero-emissions fleet with big electric bus purchase

On Jan­u­ary 30th, King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine announced an agree­ment to buy forty bat­tery-elec­tric bus­es, with an option for eighty more.

The coun­ty has been leas­ing a small num­ber of elec­tric bus­es from three sep­a­rate com­pa­nies since 2018, main­ly to gath­er infor­ma­tion on their reli­a­bil­i­ty and pro­vide feed­back to the indus­try. The bus­es the coun­ty is pur­chas­ing, from man­u­fac­tur­er New Fly­er, are val­ued at between $925,000 and $1.3 mil­lion each.

Fund­ing for the ini­tial $50 mil­lion pur­chase has been cov­ered in part by grants from the Fed­er­al Tran­sit Admin­is­tra­tion and the state Depart­ment of Ecol­o­gy.

Metro is aim­ing to tran­si­tion to an all-elec­tric fleet by 2040, first announc­ing the plan back in 2017. Both 40′ and 60′ artic­u­lat­ed mod­els are cur­rent­ly being test­ed.

After a few years of test­ing, Metro now has more infor­ma­tion about how the brand-new bat­tery-elec­tric tech­nol­o­gy react to the unique ter­rain, weath­er, and traf­fic of our region. It is encour­ag­ing to see that the agency felt com­fort­able enough to pro­ceed to a first pur­chase order on-time, going by the time­line set forth at the estab­lish­ment of the pro­gram.

Jeanne Kohl-Welles being interviewed

King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Jeanne Kohl-Welles being inter­viewed at a press con­fer­ence to announce the pur­chase of elec­tric bus­es (Pho­to cour­tesy of Coun­cilmem­ber Kohl-Welles)

The first forty bus­es will be six­ty-foot artic­u­lat­ed bus­es (the longer bus­es we see on the roads with two halves con­nect­ed by a cen­tral node).

If the coun­ty decides to buy more, twen­ty can be artic­u­lat­ed while the remain­ing six­ty will be forty foot sin­gle-sec­tion bus­es.

Elec­tric bat­tery pow­ered bus­es have so far been test­ed sole­ly on the East­side, since cov­er­age areas are lim­it­ed by where charg­ing infra­struc­ture is.

Metro cur­rent­ly has charg­ing infra­struc­ture at two loca­tions: the East Base locat­ed in the new Spring Dis­trict and at East­gate Park & Ride.

Routes 226 and 241 have seen elec­tric bus ser­vice over the last few years. The ini­tial forty artic­u­lat­ed bus­es are also like­ly to begin ser­vic­ing the East­side, espe­cial­ly on com­muter routes from East­gate head­ing into Seat­tle.

Infra­struc­ture to accom­mo­date an elec­tric fleet is the next step in tran­si­tion­ing to an all-elec­tric fleet, since the cur­rent East­side-heavy set­up lim­its the area that bat­tery-elec­tric bus­es can cov­er. Facil­i­ties are being built at the South Base in Tuk­wila for up to one hun­dred and twen­ty-five bus­es.

The two hun­dred and fifty addi­tion­al bus­es that Metro plans to obtain by 2025 will be housed at a new annex adja­cent to the exist­ing South Base.

The bat­tery-elec­tric fleet is not the only ini­tia­tive that Metro has in place to reduce its car­bon foot­print. The agency has one hun­dred and sev­en­ty-four elec­tric trol­ley­bus­es in its fleet, using over­head wires for pow­er.

The wires cur­rent­ly are con­cen­trat­ed through­out Down­town, Capi­tol Hill, First Hill, and Queen Anne. Branch­es extend as far as the Rainier Val­ley and Bal­lard, but the obvi­ous lim­i­ta­tion to the elec­tric trol­ley­bus­es is the exten­sive fixed infra­struc­ture required before ser­vice can begin in an area.

Trol­ley­bus­es also do not have bat­ter­ies, which are a key engi­neer­ing chal­lenge for man­u­fac­tur­ers in terms of dura­bil­i­ty and lia­bil­i­ty.

The new bat­tery-elec­tric fleet is a promis­ing step to reduce the pol­lu­tive foot­print of trans­porta­tion through­out our region. You can see the new bus­es in action on King Coun­ty TV’s Face­book page. They will hit the roads for gen­er­al use by 2021.

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One Comment

  1. A bit of good news for a change… I’ll take it!

    # by Sherlene Nutter :: February 4th, 2020 at 11:03 PM