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Jefferson Transit buys its second electric bus

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PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson Transit Authority board has approved the purchase of a second electric bus as the department transitions toward a fully zero-emissions fleet.

The bus — a 35-foot Gillig Electric Bus — won’t arrive in the county for more than a year, said General Manager Nicole Gauthier, but JTA hopes to put its first electric bus into service in early November.


“Jefferson Transit is moving in the direction of transitioning its fleet to a zero-emission fleet,” Gauthier said. “The best way the community can contribute is by riding one of our buses. Every time community members get out of their vehicles and onto a bus, that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The $1.3 million bus is being largely paid for through a state Green Transportation Capital grant program, which awarded JTA $1 million to upgrade to electric buses. The remaining $345,000 will come from local sales tax revenue.


The bus does use some diesel fuel for its pre-warming system, said Desiree Williams, fleet and facilities manager. The fuel is used to warm the battery in cold weather and in the morning before service starts.


The new bus also will come equipped with a new disabled passenger restraint system, which will allow passengers who use wheelchairs to operate independently, without the assistance of the driver as is the case on most buses.


Jefferson Transit has installed plug-in chargers at its facility on Four Corners Road in Port Townsend and has plans to install induction chargers — which charge batteries simply by driving over it and do not require plug-in connections — but Gauthier said supply chain issues raised the cost of those charges and the plans have been postponed.


The department’s first electric bus is expected to have a range of about 200 miles, Gauthier said, but it has not yet been put into service.


Range of electric buses can vary depending on the temperature and whether or not additional power is used for things like heating, air conditioning or the window defroster.


“We’re still testing all of that out. It takes us a little bit of time to adjust to the new vehicle,” Gauthier said. “The next six months will be a really interesting time while we’re tracking that data.”


The bus ordered last week will have an enhanced battery pack, which will give it a longer range than JTA’s first electric bus.


Gauthier said the bus probably won’t run a specific route but will fit into JTA’s existing schedule, likely operating on multiple routes.


Personnel expect the electric bus will be able to run a route in the morning before having to return to its charging station and then running afternoon routes.


All of Jefferson Transit’s routes are currently zero fare, with the exception of the Kingston Express, which is free only to those 18 and younger.

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