King County Metro Transit announced this morning that it will buy up to 500 new hybrid buses. The first order of 22 hybrid buses will arrive...

Share story

King County Metro Transit announced this morning that it will buy up to 500 new hybrid buses.The first order of 22 hybrid buses will arrive in 2008, at a cost of $719,000 each.

They will be built by New Flyer of America, using a hybrid drive built by General Motors and an engine built by Cummins.

The buses will be purchased, in part, with a sales-tax increase that voters approved last fall to increase bus trips countywide.

Metro said last year that if the Transit Now ballot measure passed, the agency would buy 190 buses in the first two years, and half would be hybrids.

As of last year, Metro operated 214 hybrid buses on its routes and another 22 hybrids for Sound Transit, out of about 1,300 total vehicles.

A hybrid bus operates much like the Toyota Prius and other hybrid automobiles. Petroleum fuel powers the primary engine, and when the vehicle stops, kinetic energy from the rolling wheels is used to recharge the batteries for the electric drive system. The electric motor can propel the vehicle at low speed and assist the diesel engine at higher speeds.

Public awareness of global warming has increased since then, along with King County Executive Ron Sims’ national profile on that issue. He has reported that hybrids burn 31 percent less fuel than a typical diesel bus.

The new buses would be used in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel when it reopens this fall and on new bus rapid-transit routes throughout the county.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com