When Metro’s G (Orange) Line became an all-electric, zero-emission bus fleet in 2021, it was a clean air milestone for the LA region. According to Karla Aleman, Metro’s Director of Transportation Operations for Division 8, implementing the new technology required all hands on deck. Why? Read on to find out in the next installment of our ’30 Stories for 30 Years’ anniversary series.
I was excited to learn that my division, Division 8, would be the first to run an all-electric bus fleet on the G (Orange) Line. My mom was a bus operator, and I grew up taking the bus throughout high school and college. I consider myself a transit geek –– my husband and I (a longtime bus operator, he now trains people to drive buses at Metro!) enjoy exploring transit systems in other cities when traveling –– so this was an exciting opportunity to not only learn about the wave of the future but also to introduce it to our riders. Metro is the first agency to electrify an entire BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) line in the greater LA area.
Why choose the G (Orange) Line as the first all-electric line? A few reasons. First, it’s a BRT line, so we have three designated terminals where you can place high-speed chargers. Second, unlike local stops, which are owned by individual cities, we own the right of way on the G Line, so if something went wrong, it wouldn’t disrupt traffic so much. But, like anything new, there are always challenges that come with changes and updates to our procedures and equipment. And when you’re the first, you have a high profile. All eyes are on you.
We needed to test the buses and the charging equipment. We also needed to train people. That means operators, division supervisors, field supervisors, maintenance personnel, and bus operations control.
We needed to introduce the new buses in small numbers, on shorter schedules, and not all at once. The G Line, which runs between North Hollywood and Chatsworth, is almost 18 miles long. We had to make sure that each bus would hold enough charge to make it to the next charging station without sacrificing the service schedule for our patrons. (We learned that we should have buses at 60% charge at all times to avoid service interruptions.) “Spotting” (aka parking) the new buses was another issue. You have to “spot” the bus properly parallel to the charging station. If it’s not completely aligned with the pantograph [pictured above] the bus won’t charge. Check out the video below to see the pantograph in action. It looks like a space alien, right?
Most importantly, you need to have power to do it all, and to have a backup plan if the electricity goes down or the technology wavers. And it does. Weather conditions –– wind, rain, heat, you name it –– play a big role in determining whether the chargers operate properly. Yes, equipment is temperamental too!
But the challenges have been worth the rewards. Riders on the G Line can now expect a far smoother and quieter bus ride. The new buses are equipped with USB outlets for the passengers to charge their devices as well as onboard WiFi. And there are more improvements on the way. We’re getting ready to introduce a new type of bus that will be able to hold a longer charge as well as have enhanced safety features, like additional cameras in all our blindspots that will help drivers detect hazards.
Converting the G Line to electric buses has also meant a lot to me on a personal level. My grandma, aunt, and mother-in-law rode the buses everywhere their entire lives; they never drove. And I know there are so many families in similar situations today. Knowing that you’re providing a service for people who depend on it, as well as creating a cleaner footprint for future generations, has been very special.
By 2030, Metro is hoping to be all electric. It’s been a privilege and an honor to be the first in the greater LA County.
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