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Metro Transit examines greening its fleet

Summary

With new research demonstrating that continued high carbon emissions contribute to global climate change, including the rapid melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet, today’s action is a major local step forward in what would give greater Seattle one of the largest, zero emission or carbon neutral public transit fleets in the nation.

Story

The Metropolitan King County Council has approved a measure asking Metro Transit to study the feasibility of achieving a zero emissions or carbon-neutral bus and van pool fleet. With new research demonstrating that continued high carbon emissions contribute to global climate change, including the rapid melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet, today’s action is a major local step forward in what would give greater Seattle one of the largest, zero emission or carbon neutral public transit fleets in the nation.

“For decades, Metro has been a national leader in reducing the overall impact transportation has on our air quality by implementing cutting edge technology and reducing single occupant car trips,” said Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski, the prime sponsor of the motion and chair of the Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee. “I believe we must continue to lead, and push forward aggressively by pursuing a carbon-neutral or zero emissions bus fleet. This motion lays the groundwork to do that, as our region grows and the demands on our transit system increase.”

“I am honored to co-sponsor this significant motion and look forward to reading Metro’s report on the feasibility of a carbon neutral fleet,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles.

Studies indicate transportation as the region’s largest source of greenhouse gases, accounting for nearly half of all carbon emissions. Air particle pollution is a significant problem in the greater Seattle region, which can exacerbate conditions such as asthma. Seattle is also among the 25 cities most polluted by short-term particle pollution. The motion calls on Metro to prepare an analysis and recommend whether a carbon-neutral or zero emission fleet should be the preferred goal.

"We appreciate this leadership by the King County Council,” said Tim Gould, Chair of the Transportation Committee of the Washington Chapter of Sierra Club. "This report and future implementation will help our region achieve a higher level of sustainability -- especially when partnering with cities that have clean energy to use for the Metro fleet.”

“King County has a long track record of finding creative and impactful ways to take fossil fuels out of transit,” said Vlad Gutman, the state director of Climate Solutions, a Northwest non-profit that focuses on clean energy, energy efficiency, and carbon reduction policies. “Electrification will yield not only climate benefits, but also help Metro’s bottom line and cut diesel pollution that disproportionately hurts public health in disadvantaged communities. We’re grateful that our elected leaders are taking steps to create an ambitious and just transition plan.”

Nearly 70% of Metro’s fleet is either all electric or diesel-hybrid, and Metro has stated a goal to have an all-electric or hybrid fleet by 2018. However, even the cleanest diesel buses still emit about 2 kilograms of carbon dioxide per mile into the atmosphere.

The adopted motion recognizes Metro’s effort to reduce its carbon footprint, including the testing of electric battery-powered coaches and the operation of one of the five electric trolley systems in the U.S.

The motion also requests that the feasibility report include an evaluation of the battery bus pilot program, and an analysis of any gaps in available technologies or products that would need to be addressed in order to meet the recommended goal.

The report will be delivered to the Council by March 2017.
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