A cleaner mode of transportation is coming to Santa Barbara County.
Local elected officials Friday morning powered up a new, battery-electric zero-emission Clean Air Express weekday commuter bus that can transport North County residents to Goleta and Santa Barbara for work.
“All too often it’s rail that gets all the attention for transit services when the real workhorse that’s transporting people — and importantly taking them off the freeway to reduce congestion — is our commuter bus fleet,” said First District Supervisor and Santa Barbara County Association of Governments Chair Das Williams. “If there’s a way out of congestion, if there’s a way out of traffic jams, this is the way out.”
The 45-foot bus can travel up to 220 miles on a charge and meets the need for the longest Clean Air Express round-trip between Santa Maria and Santa Barbara.
The all-electric bus eliminates over 400,000 vehicle miles traveled from the county’s roads, and the bus combined with the replacement of a diesel bus eliminates 450 tons of carbon dioxide, or equivalent to carbon dioxide emissions from more than 80 residential homes, annually, according to SBCAG spokeswoman Lauren Bianchi Klemann.
“It’s no secret that transportation is the largest contributor to climate change in California. Here in California, the part of our emissions that we cannot seem to get a handle on is transportation emissions,” Williams said. “It’s the same in Santa Barbara County, and so if we want to be serious about fighting climate change, you got to be serious about reducing vehicle miles traveled.”
The bus will be charged with 100% renewable energy at SBCAG’s transit facility in Goleta through a partnership with Central Coast Community Energy.
It will serve residents of Lompoc, Santa Maria, Buellton, Solvang, and the unincorporated areas of North County who commute to Goleta and Santa Barbara.
Only two transit agencies in the nation have been able to put a long-distance, zero-emission commuter bus into operation, said SBCAG Executive Director Marjie Kirn. Those other agencies, she added, are a lot larger.
“At the end of the day, this means good public health — clean air for everyone,” said U.S. Congressman Salud Carbajal.
The $850,000 bus was purchased through a partnership with Caltrans, which provided $500,000 in Senate Bill 1 funds from the State Rail Assistance program. The rest of the money was funded through Measure A, the county’s transportation sales tax measure.
The zero-emission bus joins a fleet of 17 Clean Air Express charter-style diesel buses that operate 18 one-way trips between the two ends of the Santa Barbara County each day. The Clean Air Express fleet serves an average of 7,000 riders per month, helping to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions created by commuting to work, according to Bianchi Klemann.
“All-electric buses serving long-distance commuters are the way forward to cleaner and healthier transportation options for all Californians,” said State Senator Monique Limón. “I am proud that Santa Barbara County is among the first communities in the nation to provide an all-electric commuter bus as California transitions to zero-emission public transportation vehicles.”
— Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.