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AC Transit going green

By William Inman Daily Planet Staff
Thursday October 05, 2000

No one smashed a magnum of champagne across the prow of the four-ton pickle Wednesday morning at Old City Hall.  

Instead, AC Transit officials opted for a ribbon cutting to dedicate a big, green low-emission bus – dubbed the “pickle” – to the people of Berkeley in celebration of the ongoing partnership between the city and AC Transit. 

Emblazoned with the city’s logo, the low-floor, cleaner-burning diesel bus is one of latest additions to the AC Transit fleet that currently serves the San Pablo corridor. Berkeley’s official bus will soon be rotated into normal service. 

Attended by AC Transit directors and staff, along with city officials and a catchy little two-piece jazz band, the ceremony, titled “A Partnership in Motion,” hailed the bus as one of the first of a new breed of low-emission buses that will serve the first “Bus Rapid Transit” program, which is in its infancy along the San Pablo corridor. 

AC Transit Director Miriam Hawley – Hawley’s also a City Council candidate – presented the mayor with a plaque “dedicated to the people,” she said, for their support of the bus system. 

“There is no city more appropriate to receive this award,” she said. “Berkeley is a leader in the region, and is a proud transit-first city.” 

The rallying cry of the ceremony was the passage of Measure B, a half-cent sales tax dedicated to transportation programs. A measure to extend the tax, due to expire in 2002, will be on the November ballot. 

“Our first step is to pass Measure B,” Dean said. “You can’t have a first class city without a first class transit system.” 

Dean also talked of adding a light rail on Telegraph Avenue to serve the UC Berkeley campus and a city-wide transit pass modeled after the university “class pass.” 

UC Berkeley Director of Parking and Transportation Nadesan Permaul said that since the “class pass” went into effect two years ago, 22,000 students have begun to use the buses. He said that just 2,000 were using the bus regularly before the pass. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that in the interest of reducing car trips and therefore traffic, the bus system “needs to be appealing to everyone,” he said.  

“Traffic is either first or second in the number of complaints that we hear from our constituents,” he said. 

Councilmember Linda Maio lauded the work of the system on searching for and implementing environmentally-friendly technology. 

“Our generation’s challenge is to fight for a safe environment,” she said. “(Automobile) emissions are the largest contributor to greenhouse gas.” 

Maio also said that many of her constituents have said that they have been using the bus, something that she said “she didn’t hear 10 years ago.” 

Jim Gleich, Deputy General Manager for AC Transit, said that by the end of next year he hopes to have “zero-emission vehicles.” 

In 1999, AC Transit successfully road tested a battery-powered hybrid electric bus with a clean-burning, propane auxiliary generator, and they recently received an $8 million grant from the state to continue fuel-cell engine development. 

The Berkeley bus was built by North American Bus Industries in Alabama and purchased by AC Transit to help meet California’s tough emission standards, said agency spokesman Mike Mills. 

State-of-the-art electronics enhances the performance by controlling firing, the transmission and other functions, which also makes it more reliable, he said. 

The low-floor ramp folds down and greatly improves wheelchair accessibility. 

The emerald-green bus will be operate along San Pablo Ave. as part of the Bus Rapid Transit program. AC Transit joined with Berkeley, Oakland, Albany, El Cerrito. Emeryville, Richmond and San Pablo to introduce transportation and streetscape improvement, Hawley said. 

She said that the changes are aimed at easing traffic congestion, improving pedestrian safety and increasing transit use. 

If Measure B is approved, only by a two-thirds vote, the project would receive a $20 million allocation.