Federal stimulus grant delivers more buses for Metro

King County Metro Transit announced Tuesday that it has entered into an agreement with Daimler Buses North America to purchase a fleet of new hybrid-electric buses thanks to a $46 million federal stimulus grant awarded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The money is part of $75 million in stimulus funding announced earlier this year.

The agreement with Daimler will allow Metro to initially purchase 93 Orion buses with options to buy more than 400 additional coaches over the next five years.

"This bus purchase comes at just the right time for all the right reasons," King County Executive Kurt Triplett said. "Thanks to the hard work of our congressional delegation, these stimulus grants will allow Metro to buy hybrid-electric buses to help reduce harmful carbon emissions in our region. It’s a continued investment in hybrid technology that will further expand Metro’s reputation as one of the greenest transit agencies in North America."

The grant combined with a soft economy resulted in a favorable opportunity to begin replacing Metro’s aging fleet of 40-foot buses. The initial purchase of 93 buses cost $45.7 million, slightly less than Metro had originally anticipated. The new coaches will replace Metro’s fleet of Gillig buses, which will be 14 years old by the time they are replaced. That’s two years beyond the typical useful life of a transit bus.

Another positive feature of the contract is flexibility. It will allow Metro to purchase buses as funding becomes available to replace its 40-foot fleet. The buses will have a low floor for easy passenger boarding, a modern design and will come equipped with air conditioning and comfortable seating. These buses, along with larger articulated buses in the Metro fleet, will allow for the efficient placement of the right sized-bus on more than 200 transit routes within its 2,000 square-mile service area. The mix of buses also provides more flexibility in assigning larger coaches to ease overcrowding on some of Metro’s busiest routes.

The new 40-foot hybrid-electric buses will complement the 235 hybrid articulated coaches that have been part of Metro’s fleet since 2004. Based on its past experience with hybrid technology, Metro expects to see an estimated 30 percent fuel savings and an equal reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to its conventional diesel buses being retired. The new buses will also be more economical to operate.

"These new buses will allow Metro to remain at the forefront of our region’s efforts to reduce harmful vehicle emissions that can hurt our health and mobility," Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond said. "And we know from experience these hybrids are good performers with less down time and fewer repairs compared to their diesel counterparts."

Metro anticipates taking delivery of its first prototype 40-foot hybrid bus in about a year. It expects to take delivery of the remaining buses included in this initial order in about 18 months.

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