Santa Rosa acquires new electric transit buses, readying first two for service in late 2022
Two electric buses arrived in Santa Rosa on Wednesday morning and two more are on the way as the city is poised to put them into service later this year — the start of a bigger shift to eliminate carbon emissions tied to the CityBus fleet.
The switch to electrical buses is part of the city’s initiative to make public transportation fully zero-emission by 2030 and drastically lower carbon emissions in the transportation sector, which accounts for 60% of climate warming gases in the county.
The city’s all-electric buses, which cost $1.2 million each, join three currently in the county fleet, and are part of the broader plan by transit and fleet managers eyeing a transition away from fossil fuel vehicles over the coming years.
Sonoma County Transit introduced its first electric bus in 2018 and plans to add three more by the end of this year, with up to 19 in service by mid-2024, said Sonoma County Transit Systems Manager Bryan Albee said.
Santa Rosa has secured funding for 15 of the zero-emission 40-foot-long buses, 40-seat buses. They will be used to replace diesel-fueled buses in the city’s 29-bus fleet. Seven of those are 2011 diesel hybrid buses, which also will be replaced with fully electric ones as the transition continues.
The electric buses and associated charging infrastructure are funded by about $22 million in various state and federal grants, said Rachel Ede, the city’s deputy director of transportation and public works.
The buses remain at the transit division’s Stony Point Road base for now, awaiting inspections, testing, and other modifications. Officials hope all four buses will be out serving the public by Dec. 1, Ede said.
The buses will be charged with electricity from Sonoma Clean Power’s EverGreen portfolio, which uses 100% renewable power — 83% geothermal and 17% solar — said Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Rogers.
The buses are from Proterra, an electric vehicle manufacturer based in Burlingame.
The buses are part of a broader, coordinated move by local governments in the county to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. In August, Santa Rosa became the largest city in the nation to ban new gas stations, following the lead of Petaluma, which was the first to do so in 2021.
While per capita emissions are going down in the county, transportation emissions have been particularly difficult to reduce, Rogers said.
“So every little bit that we (save) helps us to actually get there,” he said.
The Board of Supervisors could sign off on purchase of the next 10 electric buses for the county fleet in January, Albee said.
Once all 19 electric buses are in place, they will make up about 45% of the entire fleet.
“Our transition to electric buses has had challenges, mainly due to their range,” Albee said in an email. “However, as new buses arrive, their overall range has been increased. The 40-foot buses in the order to be considered in January will have a range up to 320 miles.”
And while a reduction in transportation emissions can be achieved through technological advancements such as replacing gas and diesel-fueled vehicles with electric ones, the other half of the battle is changing the public’s behavior to facilitate use of public transportation and have less cars on the roads, Roger said.
That’s why they’ve been increasing free bus fare programs targeted for students, veterans, seniors and folks with disabilities, Rogers said, as well as the Free Ride program, which gives incentives for people to use low-carbon transport such as walking, biking and carpooling.
Eventually the city hopes to have free public transportation for all, he said.
As climate-driven wildfires have wreaked havoc in Northern California, the topic of climate change hits home for many. And leaders are seeking solutions to lower the risks of these disasters.
“Climate change is an issue that we've felt very directly here in Sonoma County and Santa Rosa,” Rogers said. “We've dealt with the impact of climate change, and we know that it's going to get worse.”
“And so this is a city, a community, that has committed to doing our part to make sure that others don't go through what we’ve gone through,” Rogers said.
You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8511 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @alana_minkler.
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