By Matt Wilson, @WilsonSTComms

SamTrans officials, board members and local media got the chance to ride the future of public transportation on the Peninsula last Friday when a Proterra battery electric bus pulled into San Carlos for a sneak preview.

Representatives from Burlingame-based Proterra came to SamTrans’ bus maintenance yard to show off an older test model of its 40-foot Catalyst E2 bus. In March, the SamTrans Board of Directors voted to replace 10 diesel buses with battery electric. These new buses, along with the 25 hybrid buses already in service, are part of SamTrans’ effort to reduce its fleet’s emissions.


SamTrans expects to get two 40-foot Catalyst E2 buses and the 80kW plug-in charger in November. In January 2019, SamTrans expects to get the Proterra 40-foot Catalyst E2 bus and the 125kW plug-in charger. Each will be used throughout our service area and will carry up to 40 seated passengers and up to another 37 standing.

On Friday, I was at the maintenance yard to work with local media, but I wanted to know how the bus felt once it was on the road. I climbed aboard for a quick test ride from the maintenance yard down to the Redwood City Transit Center, and back again. I was impressed by how smooth the ride felt and how quiet it was compared to typical buses I’ve ridden. I overheard a Proterra representative say that the bus has a low center of gravity due to batteries being in the bus floor. The placement helps make for smoother turns, with less jostling.

IMG_2521The preview bus is a workhorse itself. I was told by another Proterra rep that it was headed to Syracuse, New York this week for another preview.

In addition, the new buses will have USB charging ports on all double seats. The buses will have disc brakes, which are becoming an industry standard as they require less maintenance and upkeep. The buses have a low floor design, which will mean that the buses will be equipped with ramps rather than lifts, and Q-Pod wheelchair restraint systems to secure wheelchair users which are easier for operators and include additional safety features beyond the existing ratchet-based system.

The bus contract signed off on in March is for $9.2 million with Proterra. The new buses will replace the 2003 40-foot diesel buses, some of the oldest vehicles in the SamTrans fleet.

The San Mateo Daily Journal joined us on Friday’s ride, and you can check out reporter Zachary Clark’s write up here.

Public affairs specialist Dan Lieberman contributed to this post.


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