Sebastopol leaders are celebrating an environmental victory after becoming the first city in Sonoma County to receive an electric bus.
The county bus officially will be rolled out at the Sebastopol Transit Hub at 10:30 a.m. Monday. The launch comes at the heels of an announcement by Santa Rosa city officials that they plan to buy four zero-emission buses after securing nearly $3 million in federal funding.
Part of the county transit system, the Sebastopol electric shuttle will serve riders along the downtown corridor for free. Built in Lancaster in Southern California, the 30-foot coach has a range of 137 miles per battery charge and a 22-passenger capacity. It’ll offer riders wireless internet and USB charging ports.
“Sebastopol is the environmental leader of Sonoma County,” said Sarah Gurney, Sebastopol city councilwoman. “That’s why and how we got the first electric bus.”
Gurney has long been pushing for free fares and additional stops on the downtown bus route. She began holding office hours on the route itself, where residents requested improvements, including to service hours and bus stop locations.
She said the city received a lot of support from the county, which is helping subsidize its bus fares as a way to increase ridership. With the electric bus, Gurney hopes the city will continue to reduce the number of cars on its main streets and decrease noise.
“Riding is easy. You can hop on and off, and the bus goes to or near all the important places in town,” Gurney said. “It saves the hassles of a car.”
The county expects to add two similar electric buses to its fleet, serving routes in Windsor, Rohnert Park and Cotati, officials said.
The county hopes to convert to an all-electric fleet by 2040, as part of a proposal by the California Air Resources Board, a governmental agency that works to fight climate change by reducing air pollution. The board plans to require all new public transit buses purchased after 2029 to be zero emission.
The county plans to use funding from state programs, including the Low-Carbon Transit Operations and the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Initiative, to pay for its electric buses.
“Sonoma County Transit has been a leader in clean-fuel and low-emission buses since 1996 when it began transitioning from diesel power to natural gas power,” said Bryan Albee, the county’s transit director. “We’re proud to be moving toward a zero-emission fleet thanks to Sonoma County’s commitment to remaining at the forefront of technology in transportation.”
Sebastopol Mayor Patrick Slayter voiced hope the city will inspire others to integrate electric buses.
“This is just further evidence that we (Sebastopol) are unique, and that we like to be out in front of these things,” Slayter said. “And now through the effort of Sonoma County, we were able to be the first to get an electric bus.”
Slayter said council members eventually will direct their efforts toward transitioning to an all-green, zero-waste government operation.
In a similar lane, Santa Rosa CityBus in October announced plans to leverage nearly $3 million in federal money to start going electric.
The city’s transportation and public works department recently learned it was awarded $1.78 million from the Federal Transit Administration dedicated to improving the nation’s bus safety and reliability through vehicle and infrastructure upgrades. Santa Rosa also came away last year with about $1.2 million through the competitive grant program and now plans to use the total pot to buy its first four zero-emission buses.
This story originally appeared on PressDemocrat.com.