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Gold Coast Transit prepares for clean air future with electric bus test run

Published by VC Star

Electric buses are zero emission and hence good for air quality, but what most impressed Gold Coast Transit District passengers on a recent test ride of one was how smooth it ran.

“It’s really smooth,” Jessica Reyes, 26, said as she rode on Oxnard-based Gold Coast’s busy Route 6 Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s smoother compared to the other buses,” said Reyes, of Oxnard, who works with the nonprofit Arc of Ventura County.

Rachel Majana, 39, also of Oxnard, agreed.

“It runs way smoother,” Majana, a caretaker, said.

Dan Trujillo, regional sales manager for New Flyer of America, whose 35-foot, battery-electric bus Gold Coast was testing, explained why its ride is smoother and quieter than Gold Coast’s compressed natural gas buses.

“There’s no combustion system,” he said. “There’s no delay from the driver when he accelerates for all the mechanisms, transmissions, motors, everything to fire and move the bus.


“You just push the pedal down, and it engages the battery,” he said. “There’s no fuel being expended. The result is a much smoother ride,” which Gold Coast officials say is especially important for senior and disabled riders.

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Wednesday’s test run came as Gold Coast, the largest bus operator in Ventura County, prepares for the future.

The California Air Resources Board in December approved a first-of-its kind regulation in the nation that sets a statewide goal for public transit agencies to gradually transition to 100% zero-emission bus fleets by 2040.

Under the Innovative Clean Transit Regulation, by 2029, every new coach purchased will need to be zero emission, which Gold Coast General Manager Steve Brown says means either electric powered or hydrogen electric-powered.

Full implementation of the regulation is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 19 million metric tons from 2020 to 2050 – the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off the road, the board said.

It is also projected to greatly reduce tailpipe emissions – 7,000 tons of nitrogen oxides and 40 tons of particulate matter – during the same 30-year period, according to the board.

“The new state regulation is something we’re committed to, and we’ll definitely meet the mandate and possibly do it a little bit sooner,” Brown said a few hours before the test run. “We’re fully committed to clean air as evidenced by” Gold Coast being “one of the first agencies in the state to go with compressed natural gas” buses.

“And we’re in the process now of converting 26 of our 56 buses to near-zero emissions natural gas, which is about eight times cleaner than the current natural gas vehicles we have,” he said.

Wednesday was the first time Gold Coast tested an electric bus with passengers. Gold Coast officials picked Route 6 from Oxnard to Ventura and back because they wanted to see how the bus would do on their highest-ridership route.

After the run, James Beck, Gold Coast’s fleet manager who was aboard, said the bus did well.

“I felt it performed excellent,” he said. “Acceleration was faster and smoother than our current fleet. Much quieter. And the passengers seemed to like the ride.”

While Minnesota-based New Flyer would like Gold Coast to buy its electric buses from them, Brown said it’s too early to make that determination.

Gold Coast plans to test run electric buses from New Flyer’s competitors, including one from Proterra in June.

When it comes time for Gold Coast to purchase, “we’ll see where the technology is, and where the industry is going and what’s working out best for everybody,” Brown said.

Asked when he thinks Gold Coast will actually start buying, he said: “I’m not sure yet.”

But he reiterated that Gold Coast will meet the Air Resources Board’s deadlines.

Beck said Gold Coast wants to be a leader in zero emissions technology.

“We live in such a beautiful environment here, and we want that to be expressed in the kind of transportation that we provide,” he said. “Part of our mission statement has in there to be an ‘environmentally conscious provider of transportation.’ And that’s where we want to end up going.”

“And we really want the public to embrace this, too,” he said.

Locally, he noted, the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District has been a pioneer in electric buses, dating all the way back to 1991.

Gold Coast provides bus and paratransit services in Ojai, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Ventura and unincorporated areas between those cities. There were 3.5 million boardings on its fixed route buses in fiscal year 2017-18, Gold Coast says.

Gold Coast is preparing to move in the summer to long-planned new facilities at 1901 Auto Center Drive in Oxnard, about five miles from its present Oxnard facility at 301 E. Third St.

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