Proterra bus at Eastgate P&R (image: Atomic Taco)

A striker amendment to be offered this afternoon sets a 2035 date for full electrification of the Metro bus fleet, but also responds to Metro’s concerns about the feasibility of this timeline. The revisions to the language means 2035 is set as a goal rather than a requirement in the ordinance. Metro will develop an implementation plan including fleet purchase plans through 2040.

As we reported yesterday, Metro has concerns about the readiness of battery bus technology which is still in its relative infancy, and about the costs of charging infrastructure. Those cost concerns are multiplied in a rapid transition to electric which could see hybrid vehicles retired prematurely to meet a 2035 deadline. By resetting the 2035 date to a goal, and regularly reevaluating progress in future, the revised legislation resets the balance between the climate goals of a cleaner fleet vs the uncertain technology and the service impacts of large outlays on battery buses.

The revised bill is likely to be voted out of the County Council’s Mobility and Environment Committee today.

By September 2020, Metro will file a preliminary zero-emission battery bus implementation plan. This will identify short term milestones to inform the 2021-2022 biennium budget process, and a preliminary fleet procurement plan through 2040. A high-level schedule, also through 2040, for charging infrastructure at bus bases is required. The implementation plan includes assessments of cost projections, financing options, market availability of battery buses and supporting technology. All those elements will help clarify the costs and trade-offs of the transition to a fully electric fleet. The last comprehensive feasibility analysis was in 2017.

Beginning in 2021, Metro will face expanded reporting requirements updating the Council on the implementation of the electrification strategy.

The “jump start” vehicle electrification strategy is not limited to buses. Other goals are set for the ADA paratransit fleet (67% by 2030), for Vanshare/VanPool (100% by 2030), for other county vehicles, and for charging infrastructure for County vehicles and for the public at County owned park and rides. The executive is also to report on options to require or encourage electric vehicle charging infrastructure in unincorporated areas, perhaps following the precedent of the measure requiring EV charging infrastructure passed in Seattle in 2019.

12 Replies to “Battery bus amendment sets 2035 goal, not requirement”

  1. Quick and easy enterprise in pro-environmentally electric transit politics. Original circa-1990 Downtown Seattle Project installed the two or three switches intended to give Colman Dock passengers a variety of single-seat rides to King County Courthouse, Seattle City Hall and vicinity.

    Hardware still hanging unconnected from the overhead at places like James west of Third look to be less than a day’s line-crew duty to finally get working. Just as an experiment, everybody reading this just cc the content to your respective elected representative of whatever transit agency and Seattle City Council.

    And while I’m on the subject, does Metro’s Historic Vehicle fleet still exist?

    Mark Dublin

    1. Hey Mark – I’ve seen you post this response a few times so I looked this up. Where would this wire ever lead to if installed? There are no switches anywhere on the line so you would travel from 1st Ave to James along the route 3 or 4 alignment. First place to turn back would be at 22nd Ave E.

      On the way into downtown, you’d travel back along James to 3rd Ave where you have to travel to Lenora for the first opportunity to get back to 1st Ave. I don’t see how just adding wire for this one block would get you anything that isn’t already served today.

      Am I missing something?

  2. Well that’s good news. More than likely they stick with the original plan, but there is nothing wrong with setting goals and reassessing in case it turns out to be much cheaper to transition than expected.

      1. A lot of people come by here and think this blog is run by people at Metro or SoundTransit or the city or something, rather than being run by a bunch of transit nerds.

        I mean, I guess they could resign from being a transit nerd, but I imagine we’d refuse that resignation.

  3. Between me and my elected representatives, different job descriptions. What I’ve got “in the game” is that along with thousands of other people in my voting district, I’m my every public official’s employer.

    Which makes it my responsibility and duty to give them the instructions as to the way I personally want the system run. After collecting the knowledge and skills that will make my instructions advisable to follow.

    In a time this hard to “read” across the whole picture, political, economic, and technical. hard to imagine my fellow bosses firing anybody on the outcome of this issue by itself. But can see a sizable number of voters with a credible degree of knowledge persuading the employees we hire to either hold or change course of action.

    Mark Dublin

  4. Unrelated, but any reports from people on third ave today? Tons of buses were abandoned. Looks like at least one bus was hit by gun fire.

    1. Buses were rerouted off 3rd Avenue between Wall and Pike Streets for several hours because of a multiple-shooting incident at Pine Street and another shooting in Belltown. That’s the quasi transit mall and it affected a dozen routes including all the RapidRides.

  5. Battery buses are still developing and may not be fully mature technically until the middle of the decade. Rather than rushing through big orders for battery buses now, it could make sense to order some battery-trolleybuses with in motion charging and use them to convert some diesel routes that run partially under the existing trolley overhead network. The latest technology in Europe indicates a wired proportion of 50% or even less is all that is needed. suggestions for potential routes?

    Anything that could be done this way over the next few years would reduce the squeeze on resources later on.

    As a general point, once you try to scale up battery bus operations into hundreds, the capital investment is probably not much less than for electrification with trolleybuses. In life there usually aren’t any magic solutions.

    1. You’re describing our trolleybus fleet as it stands. They have all those features, though admittedly I don’t know the exact wired portion necessary.

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