s
s
Sections
Search
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

With nearly $3 million in federal money, Santa Rosa CityBus will begin to shift gears toward going electric.

The city’s transportation and public works department recently learned it was awarded $1.78 million in Federal Transit Administration dollars dedicated to improving the nation’s bus safety and reliability through vehicle and infrastructure upgrades. Santa Rosa also came away last year with about $1.2 million through the competitive grant program and now plans to use the total pot to buy its first four zero-emission buses.

“We were lucky. We didn’t think we would be able to strike gold twice,” said Jason Nutt, director of Santa Rosa transportation and public works. “We need these types of windfalls to be able to keep up with the program.”

Under a proposed regulation from the state’s Air Resources Board, a governmental agency that works to fight climate change by reducing air pollution, cities and counties across California would need to deploy full zero-emission bus fleets by 2040. To push that process along, the policy calls for a quarter of new bus purchases to be electric starting in 2026, with all purchases meeting the requirement three years later.

The benchmarks are included in the proposal because federal rules require the useful life of a heavy-duty transit bus to be 12 years or 500,000 miles — whichever comes first — and the state’s operators would need time to plan. Many cities, including Santa Rosa, get more years out of their fleet through consistent maintenance, and out of necessity because of insufficient funding to replace vehicles every dozen or so years.

“Our buses hang around for a while,” said Rachel Ede, a deputy director of the city’s transportation and public works department who oversees transit. “We’re able to keep them up and running for 15 years.”

Some of the city’s current fleet of 32 mostly diesel or diesel-hybrid coaches go even longer than that. The four electric buses it plans to buy will replace those remaining from model year 2002 or possibly one or two of the 2008s, while four new “clean diesel” buses already on order will remove all of the 2000 models from the rotation.

Continuing to buy the latest diesel technology option is a part of the long-term strategy, because of the higher cost of electric models and need for new infrastructure such as charging stations. The clean diesel models have a price tag of about $500,000. The electric buses still run about 50 percent more, Nutt said, and the upkeep, lifespans and distances they can travel between charges still aren’t as reliable as their predecessor technologies.

Over time, however, the hope is zero-emission models become cheaper and easier to integrate into existing fleets. The belief is as more operators make the transition and better understand the power needs and facility upgrades required to run all electric, it’s only a matter of time before that happens.

In the meantime, Santa Rosa is trying to join Sonoma County Transit — which received its first electric coach in September — as an early adopter before it becomes a state mandate. Following study and pending City Council approval this fall or winter, the city plans to leverage state vouchers worth $150,000 per bus and take delivery of four zero- emission models and related charging stations in the next two years.

“Our goal to keep a healthy fleet on the road,” Nutt said. “The makeup of that fleet is dependent on the outside criteria we’ve got to meet. But especially in California, as we move toward the elimination of fossil-fuel vehicles and increase miles per gallon for current gas and diesel engines, it means a shift to all electric.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or at kevin.fixler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @kfixler.

Show Comment