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With light rail ready to leave the station, Metro announces new bus fleet

If that Metro bus you just got off of seemed a little worse for wear it might be because it’s time for it to be replaced. King County Metro Transit has announced that it will be spending $46 million in federal stimulus money on a new fleet of hybrid-electric buses. The new buses will be in service by early 2011. The current fleet will have been in service 14 years by then — two years longer than the agency believes buses should be in service, Metro said in the announcement.

Meanwhile, Seattle prepares to enter its light rail era. Sound Transit’s light rail system opens Saturday with ceremonies and free rides.

Here’s the announcement from Metro. We’ve also uploaded the ‘product guide’ for the Daimler Orion buses the county is purchasing.

King County Metro Transit announced today that it has entered into an agreement with Daimler Buses North America to purchase a fleet of new hybrid-electric buses thanks to a $46 million federal stimulus grant awarded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The money is part of $75 million in stimulus funding announced earlier this year.

The agreement with Daimler will allow Metro to initially purchase 93 Orion buses with options to buy more than 400 additional coaches over the next five years.

“This bus purchase comes at just the right time for all the right reasons,” King County Executive Kurt Triplett said. “Thanks to the hard work of our congressional delegation, these stimulus grants will allow Metro to buy hybrid-electric buses to help reduce harmful carbon emissions in our region. It’s a continued investment in hybrid technology that will further expand Metro’s reputation as one of the greenest transit agencies in North America.”

The grant combined with a soft economy resulted in a favorable opportunity to begin replacing Metro’s aging fleet of 40-foot buses. The initial purchase of 93 buses cost $45.7 million, slightly less than Metro had originally anticipated. The new coaches will replace Metro’s fleet of Gillig buses, which will be 14 years old by the time they are replaced. That’s two years beyond the typical useful life of a transit bus.

Another positive feature of the contract is flexibility. It will allow Metro to purchase buses as funding becomes available to replace its 40-foot fleet. The buses will have a low floor for easy passenger boarding, a modern design and will come equipped with air conditioning and comfortable seating. These buses, along with larger articulated buses in the Metro fleet, will allow for the efficient placement of the right sized-bus on more than 200 transit routes within its 2,000 square-mile service area. The mix of buses also provides more flexibility in assigning larger coaches to ease overcrowding on some of Metro’s busiest routes.

The new 40-foot hybrid-electric buses will complement the 235 hybrid articulated coaches that have been part of Metro’s fleet since 2004. Based on its past experience with hybrid technology, Metro expects to see an estimated 30 percent fuel savings and an equal reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to its conventional diesel buses being retired. The new buses will also be more economical to operate.

“These new buses will allow Metro to remain at the forefront of our region’s efforts to reduce harmful vehicle emissions that can hurt our health and mobility,” Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond said. “And we know from experience these hybrids are good performers with less down time and fewer repairs compared to their diesel counterparts.”

Metro anticipates taking delivery of its first prototype 40-foot hybrid bus in about a year. It expects to take delivery of the remaining buses included in this initial order in about 18 months.

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5 thoughts on “With light rail ready to leave the station, Metro announces new bus fleet

  1. Woo, right on! Those have a totally different look than the buses that have currently been operating, that will take some getting used to.

  2. Well, hopefully they are quieter for people like me who live above a bus stop.

    And with any kind of luck they’ve got a new paint scheme that isn’t as dopey as the one now in use. I doubt it. But we can hope, right

  3. Scott S, if you live above a bus stop you should definitely notice a difference in noise if these hybrids are used on your route. I was standing at a bus stop for some time not too long ago and noticed that the articulated hybrids are much quieter when pulling out of a bus stop than the diesels. I think that is because at very low speeds (e.g. when pulling out of a bus stop), the battery is doing most if not all of the work. If you lived next to the freeway, it probably wouldn’t be any quieter because at high speed, the diesel is doing most or all of the work.

  4. So glad they have air conditioning. Nothing is worse than a packed capital hill route on a hot summer day with no air conditioning. Now if only they could air condition the trolleys!

  5. My #1 beef with Seattle’s current aging fleet of buses is that most are without air conditioning. It becomes so stuffy and miserable on most of the Capitol Hill routes on a hot summer day that I just can’t stand to ride the buses. I will be taking taxis home from downtown to Capitol Hill all this week because the buses are so miserable in this weather. Think it’s hot outside at 90 degrees? Try getting on a packed tin can with no air conditioning!