We Support New Buses, Just Not Dirty New Buses That Don’t Work For People

Left: Metro Transit’s hybrid buses in question that they want to be replaced. Right: The buses being considered today are expected to look just like this bus from Metro Transit’s most recent order.

The following is a lightly-edited joint statement with MN350 that was sent to Metro Transit staff and Metropolitan Councilmembers this morning about their impending decision to buy 20 new buses.

Today, the Metropolitan Council Transportation Committee is expected to vote on buying 20 new buses. These buses will replace existing buses, as well as provide more buses for the A-Line.

Generally, we support the purchase of new buses. But, we believe that purchasing new buses without listening to the concerns of drivers and riders, particularly transit-dependent riders, is unacceptable. It is also unacceptable to disregard the impact these 20 buses will have on the environment, particularly when the Met Council is already working on efforts to replace the entire fleet with cleaner vehicles.

It was brought to our attention that 17 of these buses–which will be diesel buses–w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶r̶e̶p̶l̶a̶c̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶o̶l̶d̶e̶s̶t̶ ̶h̶y̶b̶r̶i̶d̶ ̶b̶u̶s̶e̶s̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶s̶e̶r̶v̶i̶c̶e̶ (Update: we were informed that these will replace high-floor diesel buses instead). It is our understanding that the Met Council recently announced that they aim to have a transit fleet that only uses electricity by 2040. Retiring cleaner, hybrid buses and replacing them with dirtier diesel buses does not meet this goal. Instead, as older buses are retired, they should be replaced with electric, not diesel buses. More diesel buses will only intensify the pollution in the area’s most polluted neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are more likely to be inhabited by people of color and Indigenous peoples, who are also more likely to rely on public transportation. At the very least, Metro Transit should be buying hybrid buses that contain high-capacity batteries, like what San Francisco is doing.

Additionally, it is our understanding that the Metropolitan Council is currently working on a Request for Proposals for 131 new buses over the next four years. This includes nine new buses that will arrive in 2019. It is our understanding that the buses being considered today–from an agreement reached in 2013–will also arrive in 2019. As transit riders and advocates for a strong transit system, our understanding is that buses procured from the 2013 contract are riddled with problems that have not been resolved. Some of the things that the Council could do to address these problems on the new buses include:

  • Inclusion of driver protection shields on all buses, including the BRT branded buses
  • Inclusion of wider rear doors that either open faster, or are of the “slide glide” type (found on the front) on all buses, not just the BRT branded buses
  • Inclusion of windows where only the top 1’ of the window slides to open, similar to those found on the Gillig Phantoms. San Francisco Muni utilizes windows of this type on all of their buses
  • Inclusion of seating fabric that is easy to wipe and clean, yet comfortable to sit on (such as vinyl)
  • Inclusion of multiple bicycle storage hooks similar to those found on the LRVs, mounted inside of the buses across from the rear door, or 3-position bike racks if this is not feasible
  • Inclusion of stop request cords on all buses, including BRT branded buses (in lieu of stop request tape)
  • Inclusion of easier-to-use stop request buttons, that are exactly like the standard Stop Request button mounted by the rear door of all Gillig buses on all stanchions, including BRT branded buses
  • For BRT branded buses manufactured by Gillig, retain the classic front but keep remaining external styling options. Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority became the 1st agency to order buses with this styling (see attachment) in late 2017

With new buses on the horizon that could be cleaner and more comfortable than the buses that are being considered today, we request that the Council not decide on new buses until the needs of the riders, drivers, and the environment are addressed. We are happy to meet with you to discuss this further and to work with you all in ensuring that Metro Transit purchases the cleanest, most robust fleet possible.

Photo of an A-Line bus, with extra blind spots annotated.
Photo of a bus ordered by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which retains BRT styling that addresses the blind spot issue. Gillig now offers this option under the name “Low Floor (Advantage) Plus”.

Take Action!

Come to our Forum, entitled “Clean Fleets for Healthy Neighborhoods”, on Thursday, August 16, 6pm-8pm at the East Side Freedom Library to learn more about what you can do, as well as discuss what you want to see in the new buses. RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/248855689194341/

Also, consider going to the Met Council Transportation Committee meeting today to tell them what you think. The meeting starts at 4pm, and is at:

Metro Transit Heywood Garage
560 N 6th Ave, Minneapolis
Metro Transit Lines: 5, 19, 22
Short walk from Target Field Station

Also, send a letter today to the following Metropolitan Council members, as well as the staff who are involved with designing the new buses: