Hybrid buses roll into Bellingham - The Western Front: News

Hybrid buses roll into Bellingham

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Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 7:03 am

Eight new hybrid buses entered the Whatcom Transportation Authority’s fleet Monday, Feb. 4. The hybrid buses are electric and diesel, and will cycle through all routes, excluding the 80X to Mount Vernon.

The buses offer 40 percent higher fuel economy, a 30 percent reduction in maintenance costs and a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, according to the WTA website.

People can expect a smoother, quieter ride on the new hybrids, said Maureen McCarthy, WTA’s community relations and marketing manager. Expectations for the reliability and performance of the hybrids are high, she said. 

Jose Peña, a first-year student who rides the bus often, said the hybrids are not too different from the non-hybrids. 

Peña likes the feeling of being in a hybrid bus because of it's reduced pollution, he said. 

Buses rack up a lot of miles on the road and could be out there every day for 14 years, McCarthy said. Having hybrid buses that have 40 percent less greenhouse gas emission will add up over the years, she said. 

Western sophomore Erin Rice is excited to ride the hybrids. 

“It may not affect our generation, but it’s definitely going to affect the generation below us,” she said. “So if we starting thinking about it now, that’s good.” 

In a hybrid bus, the battery stores energy and recharges each time the bus decelerates, according to the WTA website. If the demand for power is more than battery capacity, the diesel engine kicks in and provides the extra energy. 

The Federal Transit Administration's State of Good Repair grant purchased 87 percent of the buses. The WTA's bus replacement budget paid for the remaining 13 percent, according to the WTA website. 

The grant initiative awarded WTA $2.8 million in 2011 and $1.6 million in 2012, according to the website. WTA could not use the money until hybrid buses were purchased, McCarthy said. 

WTA hopes the new buses are the first of many more, but it may be a while before they can purchase more, McCarthy said. New buses, sponsored by grants, can only replace others that have reached their “standard useful life,” which is measured in years and miles, she said. 

The buses replaced by the new hybrids were 18 years old, which is well over the standard useful life, McCarthy said. WTA also has to be able to afford new buses, she said. 

Providing hybrid buses is not part of a specific sustainability plan, but achieves part of WTA’s mission to provide cleaner transportation options, McCarthy said. 

“We’re just really pleased and hopeful that not only will the economics of this be a real benefit but also the reduced emissions,” she said. 

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