Although almost identical to existing buses, the city of Santa Clarita’s newest vehicles have some features the dedicated rider may already have noticed.
A total of seven near-zero-emission buses, three commuter and four local models, are now part of the city’s environmentally friendly bus group — a move that pushes Santa Clarita closer to its goal of operating a 100 percent compressed natural gas-fueled fleet.
These new buses replace older transit vehicles after 12 years to “make sure our vehicles are new and well-maintained,” Alexander Porlier, an administrative analyst with the city, said Monday.
“We roughly purchase five to seven buses a year and replace the older ones,” he said in a recent Facebook video for the city about the new buses. “These may look just like all of our other buses but, with each new model we get, we get some new technologies, new improvements on the buses.”
Among the list of new features is that each new bus carries a web-based, real-time engine management system.
“If one of our drivers experiences an issue on the road, dispatch can see it on our end here, as well as maintenance and they can kind of give the driver a heads up,” Porlier said. “It’s a great, great safety tool we have on these buses and just another tool to make sure we provide the most safe and efficient transportation possible.”
Riders can now find USB charging ports in every seat instead of on every other row. These buses also will continue to offer wireless internet.
With this new fleet, Santa Clarita has only 11 diesel commuter buses remaining, out of 113 vehicles, to reach a more environmentally friendly transportation system. In 2005, the city started shifting from diesel to compressed natural gas, which offers the same transportation options, but with a minimal carbon footprint on the environment.
In late November, the City Council approved the purchase of five more vehicles for about $3.5 million to continue bus replacements.
“Santa Clarita Transit is already looking ahead to future bus purchases, as the city nears a 100 percent CNG-fueled fleet,” according to a recent city news release.
Other steps the city has taken include public workshops held late last week and surveys to learn about the community’s transportation needs.
Porlier said out of 4,600 survey responses, some of the most popular feedback included the need for neighborhood shuttles and commuter routes out of the west and east side of the valley.