Working with other transit agencies, manufacturers and utilities, we are accelerating the transition to a clean-energy future, not only in King County, but across North America.
EARLIER this year, King County Executive Dow Constantine ordered 120 new all-electric buses for Metro Transit — the largest such purchase in the nation to date. Metro released a plan to transition to an entirely zero-emission bus fleet — powered by renewable electricity — no later than 2034. And Constantine secured an agreement to help Puget Sound Energy generate more clean wind electricity — meeting nearly all current county needs in PSE service territory with green energy by 2019. Next up is sourcing renewable electricity for the needs of our battery bus fleet as it grows.
A lot more needs to happen to make a successful jump to the next generation of transit powered by clean electricity. As the nation’s fastest-growing transit agency, we challenged the electric-bus manufacturers to develop larger, articulated buses and longer-range buses, and to standardize charging stations.
Last week, we brought together transit agencies from across the nation and Canada along with utilities, regulators and other partners to meet these shared goals and chart a path to transit electrification.
There is much good news to share. The electric-bus industry is growing, making impressive technical strides.
If you want to ride the future today, we have battery buses operating on Routes 226 and 241 on the Eastside, serving some of the region’s densest job centers including Microsoft and downtown Bellevue. With a range of 25 miles, these buses are quiet, clean and need only a 10 minute charge before returning to service.
We are continuing to test new models. By the middle of next year, riders in South King County will ride on six battery buses from three different manufacturers, all with an extended range of 140 miles. In addition, we will roll out four 60-foot articulated buses from two manufacturers. We’ve chosen South King County as a focus area for the first big wave of battery-bus deployment because we know these communities face disproportionate air pollution and health impacts, and so we want to bring the benefits of zero emissions buses there first.
While battery technology continues to evolve — a bus on a test track recently drove more than a thousand miles on a single charge — standardization of charging systems remains elusive. We can’t be saddled with multiple, incompatible charging systems, so we’re continuing to insist on a universal system that works with all battery bus types.
We are also working with our local utilities to plan charging infrastructure and make sure we have reliable backup for Metro and Sound Transit bases in case of a power outage. We need confidence that we’ll be able to provide essential transportation services, no matter what.
Leading the nation in clean transit is nothing new for King County. Metro pushed the industry to innovate and became the first transit agency to aggressively adopt diesel-electric hybrid buses. We currently operate a fleet of 1,400 buses, mostly hybrids, electric trolleys and now battery-electric models.
Our investments in battery buses will spark new innovations. Our challenges will be resolved with new solutions. Working with other transit agencies, manufacturers and utilities, we are accelerating the transition to a clean-energy future, not only in King County, but across North America.
When it comes to leading the charge against climate pollution, you can either get on the bus or be left at the curb. When it comes to zero-emission transit, King County Metro is in the driver’s seat.