A few hundred miles north in Seattle, King County Metro Transit unveiled new state-of-the-art hybrid buses on May 27, 2004, built to run without dangerous emissions in the leading BRT right of way in America, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel.
"This hybrid bus is a first of its kind - and it's not surprising that it is showing up here first," said King County Executive Ron Sims. "We led the region on converting to ultra low-sulfur fuel, and now we are on the cutting edge for hybrid technology. Metro is known as one of the most innovative transit agencies in the nation. For the past 30 years, transit ideas that have been pioneered here in King County have become the industry standard in the rest of the world."
The 235 hybrids have been purchased to replace aging buses now operating on routes using the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel – 213 will be deployed by Metro and 22 by Sound Transit. The first two dozen hybrids will go in service in South King County on June 5. All 235 will be on the road by the end of the year.
The hybrid bus operates on both Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) and electricity that is generated within the vehicle and stored in batteries on the roof. It will eliminate the need for overhead wires inside the tunnel, which is important since work begins next year to retrofit the tunnel to carry both buses and light rail. (Photo from King County Metro web)
"We needed a large bus that was clean, efficient, and met some unique operating needs," said Sims. "As we explored options, we decided that hybrid technology had the best potential to meet our clean-air and operating requirements."
Plans for replacing the tunnel buses began several years ago with Metro’s Bus Procurement Committee – a group of bus drivers, maintenance workers and managers who collaborated on what they thought would work best in King County. Their ideas were turned over to a group of national manufacturers who worked together to create the new hybrid bus. That team included: New Flyer of America; Allison Transmission, a division of General Motors; and Caterpillar.
Sims said the hybrid purchase demonstrates Metro's and Sound Transit's willingness to explore every possible alternative for cost-effective, clean-air transportation. Replacement of the current fleet of tunnel buses will save approximately $3.5 million annually in fuel and maintenance costs. Those savings will be reinvested in expanded service as outlined in Metro’s six-year transit plan.
Another good source of information, especially on vehicles, is the FTA executive secretariat for the BRT Action Plan of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), a California research organization, WestStart-CALSTART.
Still a third source of BRT information is the FTA-funded National Bus Rapid Transit Institute in Florida.
And fourth, more skeptical, pro-rail source of information is the Center for Transportation Excellence in Washington, DC, which has a BRT 101 page.
Five billion dollars over the voter-approved 1996 budget for the first 21 miles.
Local funding share from Motor Vehicle Excise Tax is at risk because of voter approval and Supreme Court clearance of I-776 tax cut.
First 14 miles is years behind schedule; construction started November, 2003.
Extension beyond first 14 miles now requires a vote to double Sound Transit taxes; not scheduled.
No budget, no funding, and no hope of building out to the preferred northern terminus at Northgate.
Next hurdle -- closing the downtown Bus Tunnel at start of 2005 Christmas shopping season to lay train tracks.
Editorial support for light rail changed to opposition at Seattle Times.
Public support for light rail is below 50% in the region overall; one poll showed below 50 percent even in City of Seattle.
Light rail was never objectively analyzed against express bus alternatives; building light rail was pre-determined.
The Initial Segment Plan proposing 31 rail cars operating on a 14 mile long route does not have the capacity and geographic reach of the official "no build" alternative comprised of 232 additional tunnel buses.
Light rail increases passenger-carrying capacity of the overall transportation system (not true).
Light rail is a replacement for bus service in the densest part of Seattle (only if you want to go where light rail goes).
Light rail provides travelers with an alternative to driving in congestion (only if you want to go where light rail goes).
Light rail operates successfully in many other cities (but it bleeds transit finances in some cities).
Light rail is cheaper and faster to build, and more environmentally friendly, than adding more freeway lanes (straw man).
Light rail in Seattle is projected to carry thousands of riders every day, more than any other light rail line in America (so they say).
Light rail is a next step in creating an efficient multi-modal transportation system in a modern, world-class city like Seattle (so they say).
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Last modified: February 07, 2011