Move over New York & San Francisco
Houston's green machines: METRO increases its hybrid bus fleet
Taking a cue from Chamillionaire, METRO is inviting riders to ride low — but not dirty.
A fleet of new 40-foot, low-floor hybrid buses is arriving on Houston streets this week as part of the transit authority's welcoming of 80 hybrids from Orion, a bus company operated by Daimler. The new buses are tricked out with larger windows, ergonomically-designed seats and the latest climate-controlled technology.
Earlier this year, METRO put into operation 20 new MCI hybrid buses, the commuter buses that operate out of the city's Park & Ride lots. At the moment, 33 of the new street buses have been delivered, of which 20 will operate out of the Hiram Clarke bus operating facility while 13 are being prepared for service. Ten of the hybrids will rock the road this week, and Orion will deliver the remaining 47 buses sometime in August and September.
The 80 new buses fulfill Metro's goal of buying 100 hybrid buses per year.
"Once they're delivered, we do a receiving inspection to make sure everything is put together properly and functioning OK," explains Charles Berkshire, senior director of bus maintenance. "Then we install the bus for service — we install the fare collection system, the radio for the operators, and the GPS system."
Typically, it takes three to four weeks to process the buses and install all the systems before the vehicles are ready to pick up riders.
The hybrid bus combines a diesel engine with an electric motor, allowing it to deliver up to 30 percent better fuel economy than a traditional bus. This method allows for a per bus savings of an estimated 3,600 gallons of fuel per year.
Moreover, the hybrid model produces significantly lower hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions, soot is lowered by 90 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions are lowered by 50 percent.
Orion's buses boast a regenerative braking system, meaning that the vehicle captures and stores energy while stopped. Best of all, the 80 new buses are quieter than the traditional bus.
The incorporation of this fresh fleet places Houston on par with other progressive cities that operate hybrid buses, including New York, Portland and San Francisco. The Orion buses share the same European design developed by Daimler.