SamTrans is taking another step towards modernizing its fleet with buses that will lower emissions and improve fuel consumption.
Earlier this month, the board of directors approved a contract to purchase 25 diesel electric hybrid buses. The energy-efficient buses, the first in the SamTrans fleet, are expected to be in service throughout the county by the end of the year.
The low-floor buses use long-life, non-hazardous, maintenance-free batteries to capture and store braking energy and advanced solid state controllers to manage and blend power sources. For the community and the customers this means reduced emissions and smoother, quieter buses. For the district it means using less fuel, which translates into improved operating costs.
The purchase is part of a $32.2 million contract for a total of 62 buses. The remaining buses will be powered by modern diesel technology. The buses will replace 1998 buses, the oldest vehicles in the SamTrans fleet. The new buses are expected to save $3 million in fuel costs over the next 12 years.
Vehicle modernization is part of an ongoing program to reduce emissions throughout the SamTrans fleet and meet the newest clean air standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The diesel electric hybrid buses will produce 90 percent fewer NOx emissions than the 1998 buses they are replacing. The fuel technology used in the new diesel buses has engine emission certification levels that are the same as those found in buses powered by compressed natural gas.
SamTrans received $4.9 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to purchase the diesel electric hybrid buses. All the buses will be manufactured by Gillig of Hayward, Calif., which means the federal funds will provide jobs for Bay Area workers.
The new 40-foot buses will be used throughout SamTrans service area and can carry up to 39 seated passengers with up to another 24 riders standing. Like all SamTrans buses, the new buses have priority seating for seniors and people with disabilities and exterior bike racks that can accommodate up to two bikes.
The buses include upgrades that improve safety and comfort for riders. The wheelchair ramp has a more gradual incline, which makes it easier for riders to board the bus. The buses even offer smart technology features, such as interior, energy-efficient LED lighting, equipped with sensors that measure the ambient light. On bright, sunny days, the lights turn down and when it is dark outside, the lights are brighter. The rear door is also modernized to open automatically when a passenger stands on the exit stairs, eliminating the need for a push bar on the door.
To help keep costs low, SamTrans formed a buying consortium with several other transit agencies to purchase the buses. The high volume order allowed the district to negotiate better rates. SamTrans purchased 132 buses in 2008, with an option to buy additional buses in the future.
The buses are part of a fleet of 313 SamTrans vehicles that provide transportation for more than 40,000 people every weekday. Most SamTrans riders are going to school or work and 64 percent do not have access to a car.