Greening MTS

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When people think of buses, many think of the stinky exhaust fumes. Fortunately, San Diego has an ambitious climate action plan that puts an emphasis on clean public transportation and MTS has been implementing changes in vehicle fuel types to improve the region’s air quality and lower costs. The latest step for MTS has been to test out several all electric buses on several routes.

I had the privilege of unknowingly stepping onto one of these new buses one day. I was waiting for the route 10 bus at Old Town on my way home from work. The first thing I noticed was there was a lot more head room in the bus. The bus felt very spacious. It was a nice change. The bus pulled out of the depot and it was so quiet. I couldn’t believe my ears. I was really curious. Was this bus an electric bus? I asked the driver and it was confirmed. I was surprised because I hadn’t heard about the roll out of the new vehicles. The ride was pleasant and didn’t have the normal exhaust smell. The bus had plenty of acceleration after each stop. According to MTS, the all electric buses are about 10 decibels quieter than the standard bus. I can tell you from experience, the difference is noticeable.

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My next thought was to wonder what routes the buses were being tested on and if the first buses were being used in the Chollas Creek Watershed to help reduce pollution in that region of our County.  I found the planned routes listed in the MTS Zero Emission Bus Pilot Program Fact Sheet so I started to map bus routes and since children are particularly vulnerable to pollution, I included schools within 500 feet of bus routes. As you can see below, there are a lot of schools on bus routes.

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electric buses, schools, diesel particulate matter, transit
Many schools lie within 500 feet of transit routes, which could increase respiratory problems for people in those schools, especially students.

The top tier for diesel particulate matter are indicated in the Census tracts outlined in white and the second highest tier are the areas outlined in grey. The red indicates the portions of school parcels that are within 500 feet of the bus route. Clearly there are quite a few children impacted by particulate matter on a daily basis and clean fueled buses can be of great benefit to these neighborhoods. 

electric buses, schools, diesel particulate matter, transit
We can see the electric bus transit route is serving an area with a high percentile of diesel particulate matter. Hopefully this will help combat health issues from driving pollutants.

But where do the routes in the MTS Zero Emission Bus Pilot Program announcement run? I was quite happy with the results when I mapped the data MTS provided in the announcement. The pilot program was scheduled to debut in the areas most impacted by particulate matter pollution. For more information on the health impacts of pollution in this community, please read Makello blog African Americans Concentrated in Diverse Redlined San Diego

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Hopefully you get to experience the new buses. Keep an eye out for them. They are a really bright green color. You would think the color would have clued me in before I ever stepped on the bus but I’m so used to bus wraps I was a little slow catching on. Hopefully, the program is a lot quicker to catch on and San Diegans can reap the benefits of noise and pollution reduction.