March/April 2023 - 31

T
Santa Cruz Metro whale
tail battery-electric bus.
Santa Cruz Metro
he COVID-19 pandemic affected
the Santa Cruz Metropolitan
Transit District (Santa
Cruz Metro) in a multitude
of ways. During the height
of the pandemic, Santa Cruz
Metro lost 90 percent of its
ridership, as well as approximately
20 percent of its bus
operators, causing service to
be disrupted.
Michael Tree was named
CEO of Santa Cruz Metro in
March 2022, as the agency was
still navigating through the
height of the pandemic and
finding its " new normal. " According
to Santa Cruz Metro
Board Member and Former
Chair Larry Pageler, Tree was
hired due to his extensive expertise
and knowledge of public
transit, as well as his proven
track record in increasing
connectivity for the public.
During his first year as
CEO, Tree has put together
a plan for the agency that is
focused on three key areas:
* No more tailpipes for Santa
Cruz Metro buses, as the
agency looks to transition to
100 percent, zero-emission
battery-electric and hydrogen
buses by 2037.
* Double the agency's ridership
to seven million rides within
five years.
* Develop 175 affordable housing
units by 2030.
The Santa Cruz Metro Board
decided to convert all the agency's
compressed natural gas
(CNG) buses to hydrogen and
battery-electric buses in 2021.
Tree notes the residents who
live in the state of California
are conscientious of the environment,
which lends support
to the agency's long-term zero-emission
plans.
" The people in California are
very vocal when it comes to the
environment. They're sophisticated
and discerning customers,
and the public was making it
clear in this day and age, there
were better options for the environment
than hybrid diesel
and CNG, " Tree said. " We've
had riders tell us they're happier
now more than ever riding Santa
Cruz Metro because the buses
are zero-emissions. Riders have
told us the zero-emission buses
fit their values better. "
Santa Cruz Metro's riders
are not the only stakeholders
to enjoy the transition to hydrogen
and battery-electric
buses, so have the drivers.
" I think the drivers appreciate
the fact that when they
touch the accelerator, the bus
is moving, " Tree stated. " You
can't put your foot down heavy
with an electric bus or you're
going to drain the battery really
quick. However, you're going
to get some instant feedback. I
think it takes a little while to get
used to an electric bus, but I've
heard lots of drivers say they'd
prefer to drive a battery-electric
bus or a hydrogen bus than the
other buses in our fleet. "
Santa Cruz Metro currently
has four battery-electric buses
in operation and is expecting
five more battery electric buses
to be delivered in June. A hydrogen
station is in the final stages
of planning and engineering,
and the agency anticipates procurement
of 19 hydrogen buses
in the near future.
According to Tree,
the
decision to use more hydrogen
buses as opposed to battery-electric
buses is a mitigation
step against a potential
natural disaster.
" We're prone to natural disasters, "
Tree said. " Whether it
be fires or earthquakes, so the
board's anticipating some event
in the future will probably take
away our electricity for quite a
while. Having a hydrogen fleet
will allow us to power a hydrogen
station with a generator
and keep the fleet available for
assistance in the community
during the emergency. "
Tree notes the hydrogen
buses take a lot less time to
fuel compared to the charge
time of battery-electric buses.
The hydrogen buses also stay
in service longer daily.
The agency has a goal to
completely transition from
CNG to zero-emission buses
by 2037. Santa Cruz Metro
Board Chair Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson
explains the next
13 years will need to strike a
balance in both the monetary
outlay of the transition, as well
as the time outlay on operators.
" The cost of transitioning
each bus is about $1.3 million,
so we have to piece together a
lot of different sources of funding
to be able to acquire those
buses, " Kalantari-Johnson said.
" We're bringing on 28 buses in
the next 12 months, which is
quite a number of buses. We
also have to keep in mind our
workforce, so to transition our
workforce and train our workforce
with a new technology, we
have to be mindful of that and
do that in incremental steps. "
Ridership recovery
During the height of the pandemic,
Santa Cruz Metro lost
MARCH/APRIL 2023 | MassTransitmag.com 31
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March/April 2023

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March/April 2023

Editor’s Notebook
People & Places
Why Zero-Emissions Fleet Transformation Starts at the Top
A Look at U.S. Bus Fleets
Have We Outgrown Paratransit?
Santa Cruz Metro Bounces Back from COVID-19 Pandemic
Ready for Rail: A Look at 2023’s Big Projects
Products
March/April 2023 - 1
March/April 2023 - 2
March/April 2023 - 3
March/April 2023 - 4
March/April 2023 - 5
March/April 2023 - Editor’s Notebook
March/April 2023 - 7
March/April 2023 - People & Places
March/April 2023 - 9
March/April 2023 - 10
March/April 2023 - 11
March/April 2023 - 12
March/April 2023 - 13
March/April 2023 - 14
March/April 2023 - 15
March/April 2023 - Why Zero-Emissions Fleet Transformation Starts at the Top
March/April 2023 - 17
March/April 2023 - 18
March/April 2023 - 19
March/April 2023 - A Look at U.S. Bus Fleets
March/April 2023 - 21
March/April 2023 - 22
March/April 2023 - 23
March/April 2023 - 24
March/April 2023 - 25
March/April 2023 - Have We Outgrown Paratransit?
March/April 2023 - 27
March/April 2023 - 28
March/April 2023 - 29
March/April 2023 - Santa Cruz Metro Bounces Back from COVID-19 Pandemic
March/April 2023 - 31
March/April 2023 - 32
March/April 2023 - 33
March/April 2023 - 34
March/April 2023 - 35
March/April 2023 - Ready for Rail: A Look at 2023’s Big Projects
March/April 2023 - 37
March/April 2023 - 38
March/April 2023 - 39
March/April 2023 - Products
March/April 2023 - 41
March/April 2023 - 42
March/April 2023 - 43
March/April 2023 - 44
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