Local Treasures with Pia: STA introduces battery electric buses

Spokane, Washington – If you are a regular Spokane Transit Authority rider you’ve probably heard of the new City Line, which will connect Spokane Community College to the east with Browne’s Addition in the west.

But did you know that the City Line buses are going to be battery-electric buses?

“The concept behind the city line is to provide Spokane with a streetcar or light rail experience, but without the high cost of putting in rails,” said Brandon Rapez-Betty, communications director for STA. “Battery-electric buses are quieter and have no street emissions.”

Ten articulated 60-foot battery-electric buses will run on the city line, and not only will they be quiet, but they will also offer boarding from both sides.

“We ordered the first five-door articulated battery-electric buses in the country,” Rapez-Betty said. STA is building new stations – or bus stops – for the city line which allows for people to board on both sides of the bus. “That will make it easier and quicker for people to get on and off the bus, which in turn will help traffic flow better.” The new stations are also higher than the sidewalk which will make it a lot easier to board the bus.

“There is no step up,” Rapez-Betty said. “It’s almost level with the bus.”

The City Line buses are purple, black, and silver so they will look a lot different from the usual STA color palette of green, blue, and white.

“Our original brand colors stem from the theme of Expo 74 and symbolize land, water and air,” said Rapez-Betty.

STA is also getting four 40-foot battery-electric buses for route 4, which connects the Moran Prairie Station with the Five Mile Park and Ride on the other side of town.

“Those buses are painted blue and they are not articulated. They will run on the longest route we have,” Rapez-Betty said.

STA’s regular buses are diesel or diesel-hybrid buses, so everyone had to be trained on the new buses.

“We trained our trainers, who then trained the maintenance staff, and all the coach operators,” Rapez-Betty said. “We also trained with local first responders so they can know how a battery-electric bus is different from a diesel bus, and what to do if there is an emergency.”

For environmental reasons, STA is committed to reaching zero emissions at some point but is not doing so at the cost of local taxpayers, because the battery-electric buses are funded by grants.

“We are also looking at other types of propulsion, like hydrogen fuel cells,” Rapez-Betty said. “We are not investing in technology instead of service. As long as there is grant funding available, we will keep moving in this direction.”

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