Buses under the San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority (RTA) now have a new home thanks to the agency opening a new bus operation and maintenance facility.
- Photo Courtesy Of Stantec
- RIBBON-CUTTING The Elks Lane bus facility officially opened to the public on March 18 after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"The problem that we had with our previous facility that we leased was it was too small. It was inefficient and not a good design. We needed better facilities to be able to, for example, lift up more than two buses at a time," said SLO RTA Executive Director Geoff Straw. "We needed a better working environment for the mechanics. We were also landlocked, we had development completely around us, and so it was difficult for us to access the facility. This one's much closer to the freeway, and more reliable in getting to and from our starting point."
He added that the RTA overspent on the old facility's lease, and the new location at SLO's 253 Elks Lane would result in an annual savings of $200,000.
The new bus facility totaled $17 million in construction costs, but Straw said the final tally with land acquisition, environmental litigation, and designing came to $26 million. It received funding through a combination of grants and loans like the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, which secured $13 million.
SLO RTA's new facility will also help gradually swap out fuel-powered buses for zero-emission ones.
"Our board meets next Wednesday [San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority board of directors], and I am asking the board to authorize purchase of two battery electric vehicles," Straw said. "We applied for Federal Transit Administration for FTA Section 5339(b) funds, and we were awarded $8.8 million. We got the biggest one in California, so we can buy 11 battery electric buses, six of them for the city of San Luis Obispo and five of them for the RTA."
The RTA adopted its project master plan with the zero-emission feature just in time for the California Air Resources Board's 2019 implementation of the Innovative Clean Transit rule.
"The first set of [ICT] rules takes place in 2026 where 25 percent of replacement buses must be zero-emission," Straw said. "Then, by 2029, we cannot buy an internal combustion engine, diesel or gasoline. They have to be zero emission. By 2040, we're not allowed to operate an internal combustion engine."
Buses aren't the only items getting a sustainability makeover. Will Todd, the project manager of Stantec, which the RTA contracted to design the facility, told New Times that the building was created to meet the requirements of California's Green Building Code.
"There are not a whole lot of bus facilities in San Luis Obispo, in general. There's just not that many transit operators in the county. It might be the first of its kind in the sense that it's all-electric. There's no natural gas utility, no diesel or unleaded petrol fueling for the vehicles on-site," he said.
Todd added that the facility was designed to have enough solar panels to offset operational costs like energy and lighting needs. While supply chain issues delayed equipment for electric bus charging stations, the facility expects to receive it by the end of the year. Δ