Electric buses set to make first appearance on existing Park City routes | ParkRecord.com

Electric buses set to make first appearance on existing Park City routes

Parkites and visitors taking public transit could see their trips become a lot less noisy by the end of the year.

The city is set to purchase seven new Proterra electric buses to replace the current Gillig diesel models on intracity routes, said Blake Fonnesbeck, public works director. He said the city plans to have three of the new vehicles on the job by Jan. 1.

The city plans to spend just more than $1 million on the electric buses, an expenditure that officials say will help the city reach the lofty environmental goals it has set. The federal government will foot the rest of the bill, roughly $5 million, under its "Low-no" grant program for cities adopting electric transit. The Utah Department of Transportation receives the funds on behalf of Park City Transit.

Luke Cartin, environmental sustainability manager, said Park City's temperate climate, highly variable traffic density and variety of terrains has enticed other municipalities to study the results of the city's effort and make moves of their own. In 2018, authorities in large cities from Washington to Wichita, Kansas, signaled their intent to invest in Proterra's buses, while Los Angeles has been implementing a fleet built by rival manufacturer BYD.

The seven buses will debut in stages, alongside their battery chargers, which will be centrally located at the public works bus barn off Bonanza Drive. The new 35-foot Proterra Catalyst E2 buses will replace diesel buses operating on existing Park City transit routes, with the 40-foot Electric Xpress remaining its own separate route. The new 35-footers are designed to maneuver more nimbly on the mountain town streets, though at the cost of the back window present on the 40-footers.

The new buses come with several other improvements over their brethren — both the diesel and the older electric models.

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Fonnesbeck said the new buses will have an effective range of about 250 miles (give or take, depending on inclines and traffic, similar to fossil fuel-based vehicles) per charge on a 425 kilowatt battery, dwarfing the 40 miles afforded by the fast-charging Electric Xpress line's 105 kilowatt power sinks. The composite chassis is expected to better withstand the pummeling of Park City road elements like dust and road salt, and Fonnesbeck is also watching for savings on maintenance for the vehicles, which Proterra says have 30 percent fewer parts than the average diesel bus.

The new buses are set to arrive just in time for the Sundance Film Festival, where numerous rider-centric features could receive the spotlight as the film industry and cinema lovers descend on Park City.

Free WiFi internet connections and integrated USB power outlets, like those present on the Electric Xpress, will make their debut on other city routes, allowing people taking public transit to send emails to Hollywood and tweet celebrity photos without cluttering cell towers or killing their data plans.

Fonnesbeck said the new buses won't be stationed on specific routes, instead running different ones each day.

Park City aims to hit its goals of a net-zero carbon emission rate and 100 percent utilization of renewable energy for city operations by 2022.