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Santa Clara VTA Showcases All-Electric Bus Coming 2018

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority announced in early 2017 that it was ordering all-electric buses to bring the transit agency into the 21st century. It has then ordered five Proterra 40-footer all-electric buses, seating 40 passengers, space up to two wheelchairs, and additional folding seats (4) for strollers and folding wheeled baskets. With its claims that the buses have a 21 mpg (electric), can do a fast recharge for 10 minutes at a transit stop, run up to 200 miles in one charge (and can be fully recharged up to 8 hours overnight), and have a lifetime rating of 650,000 miles, the Proterra buses promise a transformation of public transportation offerings in Santa Clara County.
With LED lighting, vinyl seats, and plenty of standing room, the Proterra 40-footer all-electric bus surely is a great step forward in making Santa Clara County more environmentally-friendly. This bus type is similar to what San Joaquin Regional Transportation District (RTD) currently uses, albeit 35-footers and operating on two short lines within Stockton. Other competitors like BYD and Gillig may have been interested in providing the VTA all-electric buses, but it seemed that Proterra was the preferred choice due to its quality and service performance.

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During my tour of the new Proterra bus, there were talks on which lines these new electric buses should be deployed. The Proterra representatives noted Line 10 (Airport Flyer) and DASH (San Jose Diridon Station – San Jose State) would be the ideal routes to test the bus since those are short lines that can permit quick recharge once the buses arrive at their terminals. With the upcoming Next Network, however, both Line 10 and DASH will be eliminated once BART expands its operations to Santa Clara County in June 2018, meaning those buses might be better used on other lines instead, potentially longer and have less time to do a quick recharge. If I were to deploy the Proterra all-electric buses, I can suggest the following routes that may be best suited for this vehicle, given current traffic conditions, ridership, and long-term potential:

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VTA Line
Round Trip Mileage (Approx.)
Vehicle Recharging Station Location/s
 Stanford Shopping Center – Santa Clara Caltrain via Mountain View, Sunnyvale
  • Stanford Shopping Center
  • Palo Alto Transit Center
  • San Antonio Shopping Center
  • Sunnyvale Caltrain
  • Santa Clara Caltrain
Eastridge Transit Center – Evergreen College
  • Eastridge Transit Center
Mountain View Caltrain – Foothill College via San Antonio Shopping Center
  • Mountain View Caltrain/LR
  • Foothill College
Milpitas Loop: Milpitas BART, Main & Weller, McCarthy Ranch, Great Mall
  • Milpitas BART
Mountain View Caltrain – Foothill College via El Monte Avenue
  • Mountain View Caltrain/LR
  • Foothill College
Sunnyvale Caltrain – Santa Clara Caltrain via Homestead, Vallco
  • Sunnyvale Caltrain
  • Santa Clara Caltrain
Baypointe LR – Valley Fair Transit Center via Alviso, Santa Clara Caltrain
  • Tasman & Baypointe (LR Station)
  • Valley Fair Transit Center
Milpitas BART – Winchester LR Station via San Jose Airport, Santa Clara Caltrain
  • Milpitas BART
  • Santa Clara Caltrain
  • Valley Fair Transit Center
  • Winchester LR
Milpitas BART – Eastridge Transit Center via  Berryessa BART, Regional Medical Center
  • Milpitas BART
  • Eastridge Transit Center
Milpitas BART – Capitol LR Station via White, Eastridge Transit Center
  • Milpitas BART
  • Eastridge Transit Center
  • Capitol LR Station
Milpitas BART – Eastridge Transit Center via King Road, Berryessa BART
  • Milpitas BART
  • Eastridge Transit Center

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Other lines under consideration include:

  • Line 26 (Eastridge Transit Center – West Valley College)
  • Line 55 (Great America – De Anza College via Sunnyvale Caltrain, Sunnyvale-Saratoga)
  • Line 63 (San Jose State University – Meridian & Blossom Hill via Diridon Station)
  • Line 65 (San Jose State University – Kooser & Meridian via Leigh)
  • Line 72 (Downtown San Jose – Monterey & Branham via McLaughlin)
  • Line 73 (Downtown San Jose – Snell & Capitol via Senter)

Related to the new bus from Proterra, VTA has started operating brand new Gillig BRT Plus Hybrid buses (40-footer) on Friday. Very similar to the 64xx buses in design, the main differences between the 74xx and 64xx lie with the headlights (the 64xx have larger, boxed headlights; the 74xx have the same headlight configuration as the Gillig BRT), and the seating configuration is slightly different towards the front of the bus (with wider space to allow strollers and foldable trolley baskets next to the rear door).

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