A 60-foot electric-powered bus parked at Rochester's downtown transit hub caught some eyes Tuesday.
That was the point.
Rochester Public Transit officials parked the bus at the hub, on Second Street Southwest, as a preview of things to come. A similar model is expected to join the city transit fleet by the end next year, said Nick Lemmer, marketing and outreach coordinator for Rochester Public Transit and Parking.
However, since the bus on display isn’t owned by the city and is not in service, the drivers of the 40-foot diesel buses running their routes at the hub needed the space it occupied.
The bus was moved around the corner onto Second Avenue Southwest.
"We got more traffic there, but we were in the way," Lemmer said.
The large bus still drew onlookers.
"The shape, the attractive color, it’s pretty," said Robert McIntosh.
The bus attracted at least one transit driver who parked the bus he was driving to see the electric bus up close.
Lemmer said the articulated frame gives the bus a tighter turning radius than the 40-foot buses have. The electric motor generates a smoother and quieter ride.
"You hop on the thing now and you hear the air conditioning fan and that’s about it," Lemmer said.
The bus has about a 150-mile range on a charge, he added. The city's long-range transit plan calls for nine electric buses to join the fleet.
The first buses will be used for direct routes and not continuous service. One of the buses can carry about 60 people seated and about another 60 people standing. That’s up 50 percent more than the 40-foot diesel buses carry.
"We’re looking to move larger to and from our park and rides," Lemmer said.
That means the first bus will be put in service twice a day and can be charged between morning and afternoon runs, even though the bus could likely run both routes on a single charge, Lemmer said.
Transit officials have been watching the performance of Duluth’s electric buses to gauge how well they run in the winter. The first electric bus will likely be equipped with a diesel heater for extreme cold running. Running the electric heater shortens the bus’s range, as does the cold weather itself. The Duluth buses have performed well, Lemmer said, and have to deal with more extreme hills than Rochester presents, he added.
A $2.29 million grant through the federal Low- or No-Emission Grant program made purchasing the bus possible and is helping fund a charging station at the city’s bus garage. An expansion project there will accommodate the charging station.
Delivery of the bus from the manufacturer, New Flyer, is still a year or more away because grant requirements and contracts need to be completed before the order is officially placed.
"Once those are done, the order will be placed and the bus will be on its way," Lemmer said.