MISSOULA — It's not even been a year since Mountain Line placed its first electric bus in service. But the transit system is so pleased with the performance of the buses they've set an ambitious goal to replace all of their diesel vehicles.
It was last July when Mountain Line rolled its first electric buses on Missoula streets. Now, the board of directors is enacting a resolution calling for "zero tailpipe emissions" by 2035.
"This is something we can do," Mountain Line general manager Corey Aldridge said. "And this is something that the board really wants to move forward on. So by passing this 'zero tailpipe' emissions resolution, it shows our desire, and our commitment to eliminating diesel burning, fossil fuel vehicles from out fleet as soon as we can."
The move comes in direct response to the continued air quality problems in the Missoula Valley, especially in the summer, when fire smoke pushes Missoula to near the top of the list for air quality problems. And a 2017 report that found transportation is still a problem source.
"We have this air quality problem in Missoula," Aldridge said. "We've done, come leaps and bounds, in improving that over the years. But there's still an air quality issue, especially when it comes to wildfire season."
Replacing all of the diesel coaches with electric buses will cost Mountain Line more money. But Aldridge says in the long run, the transit system will save money on both the cost of operation and a longer life span.
Mountain Line is still assessing that longevity, but believes electric buses are by far the better investment, especially with the clean air benefits.
"An electric bus is more expensive than a diesel bus," Aldridge said. "But the maintenance cost should be lower over time and we see that the real big benefit of zero tail pipe emissions."
Mountain Line will look to replace the diesels at the pace of about two per year, depending on federal grant availability. But because of Missoula's head-start, it is believed that will improve chances at those funds.
"The Federal Transit Administration and those that are looking at our applications see what we've done and that we have them in place and that we've been successful with them," Aldridge said. "And that makes us score higher as far as the potential for getting more dollars."
Mountain Line will have 8-electric buses in service by next year.