They’d already been on the road for a few days, but Athens Transit officially unveiled 12 new diesel-electric hybrid buses at the Multimodal Transportation Center last Friday.
The buses represent half of Athens Transit’s fleet, replacing older diesel buses that were, on average, eight years overdue for retirement. They’ll cut pollution by as much as 96 percent and fuel consumption by 125 percent over previous models, and their brakes will only have to be replaced half as often. “It’s going to help keep our community clean… but also it’s going to save us a lot of money over a period of time,” Mayor Nancy Denson said.
In 2016, Gov. Nathan Deal allocated $75 million for capital expenses for transit—the first time the state had ever funded public transit. Athens Transit received a $6 million GO! Transit grant, which, combined with $2.4 million in matching local and federal funding, paid for the 12 buses. UGA received $10 million for 19 electric buses that arrived on campus earlier this year.
To get into specifics, the new 40-foot buses are 2018 Gillig low-floor heavy-duty models with a new design and color scheme built in Livermore, CA. They seat 37 passengers—including six seats reserved for seniors and the mobility impaired—in a new configuration facing each other, which Athens Transit Director Butch McDuffie said will make the them easier to clean and make passengers more comfortable. There’s also standing room for 24 people.
In addition, the buses feature bike racks, internal and external security cameras and an automated vehicle locating system that will allow riders to track buses through the MyStop app or the Athens Transit website.
They look good, too—so good that Denson said she’s asked the commission’s Government Operations Committee to reconsider selling ads on buses. “I hate to see something so beautiful get messed up,” she said.