The Winston-Salem Transit Authority has accepted delivery of the first 10 of 20 new diesel-electric hybrid buses scheduled to arrive this year. The hybrid buses, along with 13 smaller Trans-Aid buses that will serve the disabled community, represent a $12.8 million investment in public transportation by the city.
The hybrid buses feature a new bright green and white color scheme and a futuristic design, said Art Barnes, the general manager of the transit authority. "WSTA’s new color scheme complements the city’s environmental initiative. The hybrid-electric buses are sure to turn heads around the city. And we’ll save significant dollars on fuel consumption."
According to reports from transit systems around the country, the hybrids have improved fuel mileage anywhere from 40 to 100 percent, based on the average speed of the bus, Barnes said.
"The hybrids will also have a considerable impact on emissions," Barnes said. "We expect to see significant reductions in carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. And ‘noise pollution’ will be a thing of the past, thanks to the combination of battery propulsion and a smaller engine."
Last year, the Winston-Salem Transit Authority Board resolved to purchase hybrid-electrics exclusively. Barnes said that the transit authority will be one of the first transit systems in the United States to go totally hybrid-electric.
The hybrid buses feature a low-floor design that provides easier access for the elderly and disabled. Traditional cumbersome wheelchair lifts have been discarded in favor of foldout platforms, which will eliminate schedule delays caused by wheelchair- lift malfunctions.
Old fare boxes have been replaced with new state-of-the-art fare boxes that can accommodate "proximity passes." "Passengers need only to touch the machine with their passes," Barnes said. "We expect to add this feature within the next year.
"We’re going high-tech. Even stop announcements are triggered by signals from GPS satellites."
Trans-Aid, WSTA’s transit service for the elderly and disabled, is schedule to take delivery in March of 13 smaller buses. These vehicles will also feature "fold-out" platforms for wheelchairs, Barnes said.
In recent years, the transit authority has struggled to keep its aging fleet on the road, Barnes said. "Our people have done an incredible job of maintaining these vehicles. Many of our large buses are 14 years old and we’re still on schedule 98 percent of the time.
"These new hybrid-electric buses are literally a breath of fresh air."