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Council approves purchase of hybrid buses


Vehicles will replace two 1990 units with more than 1 million miles each

The Wilsonville City Council quietly continued the process of moving the city into the future of transportation with its recent approval of the purchase of a pair of hybrid diesel-electric buses for the South Metro Area Transit agency. by: JOSH KULLA - Shown here is a compressed natural gas bus used by SMART. Natural-gas-powered vans will soon be added to the agencys fleet along with hybrid diesel-electric buses.

The approval fell under the consent agenda portion of the council’s June 17 meeting, which normally consists of one or more actions that are approved together without discussion.

The city is purchasing a pair of full-size 40-foot hybrid diesel buses from Gillig Bus Company using $921,259 in federal transportation grant money and a city match of $216,750 from a bus purchase fund held in reserve in the SMART budget.

The Gillig name was forged after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which destroyed a carriage and wagon shop first opened in 1890 by entrepreneur Jacob Gillig. After the shop was reduced to rubble, Gillig reopened under his son’s name, and the Leo Gillig Automobile Works was born. From there, the company manufactured automobiles, hearses, trucks and bus bodies.

Gillig now manufactures about 1,300 buses a year, including liquefied and compressed natural gas, diesel-electric hybrids and other models powered by more conventional fuels.

The new hybrid buses slated for SMART will replace a pair of 23-year-old diesel buses that each have more than a million miles on their odometers. According to a city staff report, the old buses were capable of just 4.3 miles per gallon, and both were experiencing structural failure in recent months.

In addition, the old buses fail to meet 2010 EPA emissions standards.

The new vehicles will reduce fuel consumption by 40 percent and can seat three more passengers apiece than the old buses, according to SMART.

The grant money also covers the purchase of a pair of compressed-natural-gas-powered vans for the SMART fleet. That acquisition, however, will be dealt with under a different council action.

Staff now will place an order for the two hybrid buses, which formally will be purchased as part of a larger order placed with Gillig by the Lane Transit District in Eugene and Springfield.

Delivery of the new buses is expected in early 2015.