After receiving a $6 million grant in 2016 and an additional $2.4 million in local, state and federal funds, Athens-Clarke County Transit purchased 12 eco-friendly electric hybrid buses, which have gone into service Feb. 23.
“The new buses will more than double the fuel efficiency of the buses that they are replacing and improve fuel consumption by up to 125 percent over a typical bus,” an Athens-Clarke County press release said.
To decrease emissions, all new buses will be using low-emission diesel gas, allowing them to meet the newest clean air standards of the Environmental Protection Agency. The buses will also have low energy LED lights on the inside.
Jonathan Hepworth, a University of Georgia graduate student, consistently rides Athens Transit buses.
“I’m glad that Athens is moving toward fuel efficiency, but [the bus] certainly seems stripped down and less inviting than the previous ones,” he said. “All of the [security] cameras on the buses give it sort of a big brother kind of feel.”
Andrew Saunders, the sustainability officer of the ACC Office of Sustainability, said the positive economic and environmental results from the project is worth the introduction of the buses altogether.
“It’s a win all the way around,” Saunders said. “If we look at it at from the environmental standpoint, we have less emissions … if we look at it from the economic [standpoint], the reduced operating cost means that we can keep fairs lower. If we look at it from the people, by reducing those costs, we’re able to either keep fairs low or invest in new routes.”
Fuel mileage for the hybrid buses will be around 7.5 mpg, compared to the current 2,5 mpg of the diesel buses. Carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by 3,000 tons.
Saunders said these numbers translate into $16.7 million saved for taxpayers in fuel costs.
The buses are also expected to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent, according to the press release.
The buses were partially funded from the $75 million GO! Transit Capital Program awarded to 11 state transit projects.
ACC Transit received $6 million from this program and used grants from the Federal Transit Administration, the Georgia Department of Transportation and 2011 TSPLOST funds for the other $2.4 million.
The 12 hybrid buses will replace 12 older buses that “have exceeded their useful life span and are experiencing increased operating and maintenance costs,” the press release said.
They will represent half of the ACC daily bus fleet, seating 37 passengers on each bus with additional space for standing. .
The wheelchair ramps were redesigned and upgraded to increase the capacity weight to 950 pounds. The rear doorways are expanded by nine inches, according to the press release.
The buses will also feature a new automated vehicle-locating system, which will allow passengers to receive bus arrival notifications through email and text messages.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony introducing the new buses will take place on Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. at the ACC Multimodal Transportation Center.
In about a year, ACC Transit plans to use additional funding to implement three more hybrid buses into service.