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Battery-Powered Electric Bus Route in Stockton, Calif., a National First

The San Joaquin Regional Transit District in California has launched the country's first battery-powered electric bus route.

City buses in Stockton, Calif. are getting quieter and exhaust-free by going electric.

The San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD) has converted its existing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Express Route from 44- to 100-percent electric, zero-emissions buses. That BRT route will be the first in the nation to feature all-electric battery-powered bus service.

“We at RTD are proud of our history of commitment to clean energy initiatives,” said Donna DeMartino, RTD’s CEO, in a statement. “With the nation’s first all-electric BRT route, RTD and Stockton are now leading the charge in providing safe, efficient, reliable and exceptionally clean transportation to people who live and work in south Stockton.”

An electric bus means cleaner air, quieter operation, and reduced maintenance costs, say officials.
The electric buses used by RTD can travel up to 40 miles, or two hours, per charge. The RTD charging stations take about 10 minutes to completely recharge a bus.

The price of each bus is approximately $850,000. RTD received grant funding to cover the cost of the new electric buses. Stockton will have 12 electric buses operating by the end of the year, with plans to purchase five more next year, said Terry Williams, a spokesperson for the San Joaquin Regional Transit District.

The buses were built by Proterra, a California-based maker of battery-electric transit vehicles. 

The range of the batteries and cost of the infrastructure needed for charging are some of the larger hurdles transit agencies must grapple with before converting a route or entire fleet of buses to electric vehicles, say RTD officials. Agencies must also weigh how quickly the cost of the bus will offset what would have been paid in diesel or compressed natural gas for conventional buses. 

Route 44 is extended to serve passengers from the Downtown Transit Center (DTC) in central Stockton to as far south as Qantas Lane near Arch Airport Road. The change will enable people who work or study at locations such as PG&E, Dorfman Pacific, Venture Academy, San Joaquin County Office of Education and the Economic Development Department Qantas Lane office, to commute rapidly and economically.

The San Joaquin County transit agency will launch a second all-electric Bus Rapid Transit route in January 2018 along the MLK corridor in south Stockton. That route will connect with RTD’s existing three BRT corridors.

BRT routes also move passengers to desired destinations faster than other types of bus routes.

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.