Better to have a new bus than no bus at all | Letter to the editor

Posted 11/23/22

Although a completely electrified transit system would be ideal, the technology is not yet available to serve all of our county’s topography and rural travel distances. The new Jefferson …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Better to have a new bus than no bus at all | Letter to the editor

Posted

Although a completely electrified transit system would be ideal, the technology is not yet available to serve all of our county’s topography and rural travel distances. The new Jefferson Transit Authority trolley is not without environmental advantages especially as a biodiesel bus.

The Gillig Trolley is currently available only in biodiesel or compressed natural gas. It is intended to complement the Historic District character.

Data from past JTA facilities reports indicate that our Jefferson Transit buses averaged about 5.4 miles per gallon of fuel. Single occupancy vehicles average 22 to 25 mpg. 

If each bus has passengers sufficient to take five SOVs off the road, we break even. 

If each bus averages more than five passengers, we are lowering our community carbon footprint compared to those passengers driving their own vehicles. 

Moreover, biodiesel is sourced from modern plant matter and its carbon emissions are considered part of the natural carbon cycle rather than a fossil carbon input, greatly lowering the trolley’s footprint.

A frequent misconception is that organizations can do whatever they want with grant money, such as that which explicitly supported the trolley purchase. Most grants are awarded for specific projects with a definitive timeline. Given the lengthy waitlist for bus purchases, this grant was approved in 2019 with a different JTA administration, a different authority board, and the grant money needed to be spent or lost. That’s how grants work. Better to have another bus on the shuttle run than no bus at all.

In reality, the most rapid way our community can reduce our carbon footprint is to drive less and walk, bicycle, and take transit more frequently. Consider a weekly walk or bike ride for an errand or an occasional (zero fare) bus trip. It all adds up. 

Ideally, the new trolley would be an electric vehicle, but it remains a more climate friendly choice over individual automobiles. JTA will receive its first fully electric bus in 2023.

Rebecca Kimball
PORT TOWNSEND

Comments

2 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • TomT

    I have to disagree with the letter writer on a number of points:

    "the technology is not yet available to serve all of our county’s topography and rural travel distances"

    Not so. JTA has documented that the maximum "driver block" is 191 miles, which is well within the capability of today's battery-powered buses.

    "The Gillig Trolley is currently available only in biodiesel or compressed natural gas."

    In 2016, the first of 4 Gillig electric trolleys was delivered to Walnut Creek, CA.

    See details and pictures at https://countyconnection.com/electric-buses/

    There are also other manufacturers whose buses can do the job. The excuse that JTA's mechanics have more experience with Gillig's diesels would seem to be far less important than before.

    JTA staff defended their decision to not use the battery-powered option that was available to them because it changed the appearance of the bus too much. Instead, they've wasted money on useless, cosmetic decorations like a fake cowcatcher and fake brass stanchions (which aren't even real brass, btw).

    https://www.gillig.com/trolleys

    If this fake trolley is equipped with a bike rack, which I'm sure will be demanded by the "active transportation" folks, how will that fit in with the design scheme?

    Here's the transcript of what was reported by staff at the JTA board meeting when questioned about their decision:

    "this was originally intended to be a diesel purchase and then actually our electric bus that we have on order was the one that we wanted to retrofit to a trolley. There was issues, um, with the, with the battery packs on top and getting it to look like a trolley."

    Back to the letter:

    "Jefferson Transit buses averaged about 5.4 miles per gallon of fuel. Single occupancy vehicles average 22 to 25 mpg."

    "If each bus has passengers sufficient to take five SOVs off the road, we break even. "

    Those SOVs would not be driving the full route of a fixed-route bus, they would just go directly to their respective destinations. Comparing average mpg is not meaningful.

    And, if those SOVs are EVs, any comparison using mpg becomes moot because our electricity is 98% clean.

    JTA should find a buyer who already has a fleet of fake trolleys and unload this mistake asap.

    Thursday, November 24 Report this

  • Snowball_InHawaii

    Well said, TomT! Besides - I would guess that SUVS and other passenger vehicles usually carry more than one person. How many people (including tourists) are likely to make regular use of a trolley. We live in a time when people mostly use their own motor vehicle - they come into town and find parking places (especially if they come from out of town). Port Townsend already has a great bus system for those who have a need for public transportation.

    Thursday, November 24 Report this