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.