Video – TriMet Hybrid Bus Debut Event

Back in July of 2010, we covered TriMet’s announcement of the purchase of hybrid buses to be evaluated on the Line #72 route.

TriMet has now received those four buses and held an event today to launch them into service. Here’s our video providing an overview of TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane’s remarks at today’s press conference, a look inside and around the bus, and a bit of direct Q&A.

Line #72 riders will be able to catch these buses officially starting tomorrow, January 31st.

Hybrid bus facts from TriMet’s flyer handed out today, after the break:

TriMet: State-of-the-art Hybrids

What’s new

  • Four new-generation hybrid buses
  • More economical and environmentally friendly to run
  • Less emissions, quieter and lower fuel consumption than standard diesel buses
  • Tires powered by electric motor with no mechanical link between the diesel engine and the vehicles movement
  • Features electrically powered components – requiring less maintenance and longer life-cycles than mechanically powered components, which lowers maintenance costs and improves vehicle uptime and availability

By the numbers

  • Estimated to be 20 to 50 percent more fuel efficient than standard diesel buses
  • Estimated 6 miles per gallon (standard diesel buses get about 4.4 mpg)
  • Estimated fuel savings a year: 2,200 gallons per bus
  • Estimated reduction in nitrogen oxides (NOx) emission: 95.5 percent a year
  • Estimated reduction in particulate emissions: 95 to 98 percent a year

Technical details

  • “Series” hybrid
  • Has both a diesel engine and an electric motor but the diesel engine has no mechanical link to vehicular locomotion (making the tires spin)
  • Diesel engine feeds a generator, which in turn provides power to batteries that supply the electric motor; electric motor provides locomotion, making the bus move
  • Similar in architect technology to Chevy Volt or Fisker Karma
  • Smaller diesel engine; operates at its most optimum RPM (revolutions per minute)

Additional attributes:

  • Same capacity for load (39 seats), drivability and range as TriMet’s new 3000 series buses
  • Feature electronic cooling system – originally developed for the military, used in NASCAR and pioneered by TriMet in the transit industry. Reduces the load of auxiliary systems on the engine, improving fuel efficiency by five to 10 percent
  • Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology further scrubs the nitrogen oxides (NOx) emission from the exhaust
  • Regenerative braking sends energy to the batteries as bus slows while braking
  • Completely assembled in the US (Gillig facilities in Hayward, CA)
  • Roughly 60 percent of parts are US made (remainder produced in Europe)


  • $3,125,000: Total project cost
  • $2.5 million: Clean Fuels Grant from the Federal Transit Administration
  • $625,000: TriMet 20% match (required)
  • $664,096: cost per hybrid bus (standard diesel bus: $407,768)
  • Balance of funds – replacement parts, inspections, training, warranties
  • Clean Fuels Grants support emerging clean fuel and advanced propulsion technologies for transit buses and markets for those technologies

Rider features

  • Low floor, vinyl seats, larger windows, brighter LED lighting, lighter interior color scheme, air conditioning
  • Longer, more gradual sloped boarding ramp for riders using mobility devices; counterbalanced for easier deployment and retraction


  • 42 ft. long; 8.5 ft. wide, minus the mirrors; 11.5 ft. tall (majority of standard TriMet buses are 40.8 ft. long, 8.5 ft. wide and 10.5 ft. tall)
  • 31,080 pounds (15 tons) empty (majority of standard TriMet buses weigh 28,320 pounds (14 tons))

17 responses to “Video – TriMet Hybrid Bus Debut Event”

  1. Update – Dueling claims: Local 757 of the Amaglamated Transit Union is claiming (PDF) that the new buses (presumably the entire 3000 series including the hybrids) are “inherently dangerous”, and that the hybrids themselves are dangerous for maintenance personnel. TriMet however, in an email just sent to media outlets, rejects the charges as “completely false”.

    Both claims are reproduced, here (Don’t shoot the messenger!):

    From the ATU:

    TriMet’s New Buses Inherently Dangerous

    The TriMet bus operators and mechanics have serious concerns about TriMet’s new buses, says Bruce Hansen, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Division 757. He states that a prior model of the same Gillig brand of bus has the highest incidence of left-turn pedestrian accidents. He said the Union repeatedly raised concerns about the pillar/mirror complex in that earlier bus’s left front corner. “Now, they’ve purchased new Gillig buses that have even more and bigger obstructions in that area. Not only that, they decided they wanted the bus to look like a train so they’ve given the new buses front extensions. Those extensions create even greater vision obstructions.”

    Hansen says he’s been told that the addition of those front extensions is costing the agency $16,000 plus for each bus. Lack of training is also a problem. “We’ve told them time and time again that these vision-obstructed buses should not make left-hand turns and that shorter stature people need special training in how to see around the obstructions. So far, no action from management.” Hansen noted that the two pedestrians killed a few years ago were hit by a bus turning left that was being driven by a short stature operator. He also said that the hybrid version of the new buses packs a high voltage wallop that the mechanics have not been trained to handle.

    Hansen reported that regular TriMet operators were not asked to test drive the new buses in every day traffic before management made the purchase. “This seems to be a purchase where the desire for a flashy design is being elevated over commonsense and safety,” he said.

    From TriMet:

    False claims raised by ATU:

    The accusations by the ATU are absolutely false. We evaluate the safety of every vehicle before it is placed into service. Regarding the new Gillig buses, they are used by transit agencies throughout the nation, and a prototype was onsite for two months for employee input prior to full production. As we receive any safety concern, we evaluate it and implement any changes that are deemed necessary. We have already made an adjustment to the new buses based on these evaluations.

    Regarding the hybrid issue, some of our mechanics have prior experience with hybrid technology from previous hybrid buses we have owned. However, every bus is different and the mechanics who will be working on these buses have received training from the vendor to ensure their safety. The new hybrids go into service Jan. 31.

  2. An odd bit of operational trivia about these buses I learned during the event today (overheard):

    They have a maximum of 15-minutes (allowed?) idle time at a stop before needing to be driven or shut down.

    When shut-down, the ramp cannot be used, because the “kneeling” system returns to the normal elevation.

    This became a minor issue for the demonstration because the ramp had been deployed for anyone to be able to board, but after 10 minutes the operator decided to shut down the bus to avoid the 15-minute idle limit, and had to retract the ramp. So if a chair user showed up later in the event wanting to check out the bus, the operator would have to start it up again to re-deploy the ramp, and then shut it down again.

    Probably not a big deal for normal operations, unless a layover needs to last more than 15 minutes and a chair user arrives in the latter part of that.

  3. I know nothing about the visibility issues for the bus driver. Lots of buses have problems with this.

    The hybrid design is unproblematic, and is also the wave of the future. All “diesel” trains already operate this way. The mechanics will be trained to deal with it; electricity is safer than flammable fuel.

    I have no idea about Gillig’s quality reputation, though I am told that Gillig and New Flyer are basically the only two suppliers of buses to the US and Canadian public transportation market. That doesn’t leave many choices. You actually have more options ordering trains.

  4. The union statement sounds like a get out of jail free card in case one of their drivers kills another pedestrian while turning. I find it hard to believe that there is a legitimate concern here. And the language about “making the bus look like a train” is rather sophomoric.

  5. I personally don’t expect any sympathy for the union point of view from the members of this site.

    I point to Trimet managements continual failures when selecting equipment.

    2900 -no functioning windows

    type 4 max- visibility problems and no leg room

    collins buses-total lemons

    ikarus articulated-total lemons made in eastern europe so no parts

    WES-boodoggle that raided the general fund for millions of dollars and continues sucking funds down from the general fund to operate

    The management has NEVER, repeat that, NEVER, has solicited any input from the people that actually drive these vehicles.

    Thanks Portland Transport for being part of Trimet’s skilled propaganda program, you guys never fail to disappoint me.

    Over six years now listening to you guys defend all that is nuts about transit in the greater Portland area.

    I am sure you will continue defending streetcars and light rail and being a nice platform for the tyrants that rule the roost at Trimet.

  6. I personally don’t expect any sympathy for the union point of view from the members of this site.

    Al, you know there’s a number of pro-ATU commenters on this site, including members of ORANA.

    But I have a question for the ATU (who has previously not agreed to our requests for interviews or responses to TriMet statements) — if there were serious safety problems to report about the 3000-series buses, why wait until today (the same day as TriMet’s promotion of the arrival of hybrid buses), rather than months ago when the 3000-series began service? A cynical person might conclude that the ATU’s press-release was brilliantly timed to stomp on what otherwise would have been a good press day for TriMet. (And, indeed, look at KOIN’s coverage of bus issues today and you’d barely know that there was a TriMet press event.)

    Of course TriMet’s event today was a promotional blitz, I don’t think anyone denies that. But it’s strange that TriMet has been frequently accused of promoting nothing-but-rail, and here on the day when they publicly tout new hybrid buses (and they’ve sent five-or-six announcements promoting today’s event to the press over the past week), and now the attacks aren’t “TriMet only promotes rail” and instead they’re “TriMet’s buses (a common model from a mainstream bus manufacturer) are unsafe!”.

    I am sure you will continue defending streetcars and light rail and being a nice platform for the tyrants that rule the roost at Trimet.

    Absolutely nothing was said about light rail or streetcars in the original post. The video was all about buses (including questions we asked about the regular bus fleet). You were the first person to bring up “rail”-anything, just now.

  7. Jeez Bob you didn’t even attack me, I can’t believe it.

    So they got 4 new buses with new technology.
    Big freaking deal, you want me to get excited, forget it.

    They are way behind the curve, I follow the national international bus news and Trimet doesn’t even rate a mention.

    Just because Trimet has probably the best PR machine in the business you want me to get excited and jump up and down?
    ATU owes nothing to this management, and neither do I.

    They are con men and pathological liars.

    And you guys are aiding and abetting them!

    You ready to blast me now Bob, like you’ve been doing for the past 6 years, go ahead.

  8. The hostility really gets old Al. We get it, you hate Trimet management. EVERYBODY knows you HATE Trimet management. So why are you taking your anger out on everyone else here? Please just stick to the topic without vilifying the character of anybody who disagrees with you.

  9. I’m pretty excited about these new buses. It’s unfortunate that the union representatives don’t feel the same way. Drivers have to be involved in the procurement process. I find your assertion so hard to believe, that I would need to see some sort of evidence of that to believe otherwise. Yes, they don’t ask EVERY driver what they think, but there has to be a driver representative on the selection team…

  10. If this bus model is really such a safety concern, is there another manufacturer that ATU would rather have seen TriMet choose? Sounds like there’s a very limited pool of potential suppliers.

    Anyhoo, I hope these new buses are a success and I’m pleased TriMet picked its most popular line to test ’em out.

  11. The timing really makes this look like a cheap shot by the Union at TriMet. That might not be the intention, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see it that way. If it really is about safety, ATU needs to be a bit more self-aware and think before they do things like this.

  12. Ya ok,,,,
    I won’t to address any of this anymore here…

    I don’t even know why I keep visiting this blog, it just gets me pissed all the time.

    I guess its just a bad habit that I can’t kick.

  13. I welcome these hybrid buses. Vancouver Wa has had them for a while now, it’s time for Portland to as well. Saving 1000s of gallons of diesel every year makes sense to me.

    Yes, the manufacturing of the battery cells is not a very clean process (last I checked) but the fuel savings will negate that, as well as the fact that as the batteries wear out, they will be recycled, they won’t go in the land fill. They will be shredded, sorted, melted and made into new products.

  14. Looking at the numbers the hybrid buses are a rip off. Because they still cost so much more than a standard bus a hybrid has to travel almost a million miles to save enough money from diesel cost to make up for their initial up front cost.

    Before anyone starts talking about how old Tri-Met’s buses are, even the 1400’s are at less than 800,000 miles. The RTD in Los Angeles before federally subsidized bus purchases had buses in the million mile range but they were also 30 years old.

    Now the four Tri-Met got were from a special grant that did not affect the other 3000 series bus purchase. However, if Tri-Met would have ordered all hybrids they would have only been able to order 33 or so buses with the same amount of money since they only get so much from the Fed’s for each order.

    Of course that cost doesn’t even take into account the $35000 in batteries every six years (one of the reasons apparently that the two existing New Flyer hybrids were pulled out of service).

    The hybrids do have lower overall maintenance cost which puts the numbers a little closer in the hybrid’s favor.

    While the hybrids can give you a warm fuzzy about being better for the environment, until the cost come down they are most costly than a standard diesel bus.

  15. With regards to the driver visibility issue…

    I’ve collected a number of photographs just through a simple Google search (anyone can go to Al’s blog to see them).

    The buses that have high-mounted mirrors have no visibility issue.

    The TriMet bus that has the low-mounted mirror – you cannot see the driver (nor can the driver see you).

    All of the pictures are taken from forward and left of the front of the bus, at varying distances but mostly simulated a pedestrian on a street corner with the bus in the far lane.

    I believe the ATU here. As typical, TriMet resorts to “lowest cost” when it comes to bus procurement, but when it comes to rail procurement TriMet goes above and beyond with public and employee input as part of the procurement process. The Board has no interest in dealing with the bus system; thus details like the mirrors are ignored (while the color of the seats of a MAX train elicit an official request for public input).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *