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Decade Of Zero Emissions Adds Up For Foothill Transit

Foothill Transit - all-electric bus
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Southern California’s Foothill Transit is pioneering efforts to improve your quality of life – whether or not you’ve ever been on one of its buses.

The transportation agency is committed to reaching their vision of zero-emissions, as well as providing a model of sustainability for other transit networks across the country to learn from and follow. In 2010, Foothill Transit became the first public transit agency in the nation to add zero-emission, all-electric buses to its fleet.

Last year, Foothill Transit purchased 33 zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell-electric (HFC) buses. The buses not only reduce greenhouse emissions, but also benefit from fast fill times and extended range, traveling up to 350 miles on a single refueling.

Foothill Transit double decker electric bus

In 2021, Foothill Transit also purchased two all-electric double-deck buses to provide commuter service from Claremont to downtown Los Angeles. The eye-catching design of the buses – similar to the iconic double-deck buses in the United Kingdom – provides great views and has additional environmental benefits.

While a typical bus carries about 38 passengers, Foothill Transit’s double-deck electric buses can carry 80 customers in the same road footprint, doubling trip capacity with half the number of vehicles. The benefit is that it adds seats without increasing traffic congestion or local greenhouse gas emissions.

Foothill Transit’s mission is to provide community-oriented, environmentally friendly bus service throughout the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, including express bus routes to Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles.

The Big Picture And The Climate Challenge

Electric Bus Charging at Pomona Transit Center
Electric Bus Charging at Pomona Transit Center

The climate emergency arguably is the greatest threat to long-term stability in Southern California. Eight of L.A. County’s hottest years on record have occurred in the past nine years, and there is an increasing threat of extreme heat, drought, wildfires, and rising sea levels.

“I grew up here. Forest fires weren’t this often and weren’t this big. There used to be a season for it, and now it’s year-round,” says Felicia Friesema, a spokesperson for Foothill Transit.

The agency recognized the urgency of this issue early on and its role in addressing the crisis.

Since 2014, its fleet has consisted of 100% clear air buses, including compressed natural gas (CNG) and electric buses. With its deployment of electric buses, Foothill Transit has eliminated the same amount of emissions as 2,424 cars every year. And by 2030, the fleet will be fully electric.

By embracing sustainability and pioneering the charge towards zero-emissions transportation, Foothill Transit is providing a model for other transit agencies to follow. The organization has been liaising with SunLine Transit Agency in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley and Orange County Transit Agency to share best practices and help figure out how best to make things work in the transition to sustainable transportation.

Street-Level Impact

Foothill Transit’s work to provide zero-emissions transportation doesn’t just benefit those who ride its buses — every resident in the community experiences its impact.

“Every person on board a bus is one less car on the road, which lowers the probability of accidents,” says Friesema. She notes that there are other benefits as well. Electric buses not only reduce air pollution — they reduce noise pollution as well.

“Our electric vehicles tend to be a lot quieter than our other vehicles,” says Friesema. The loudest thing on the buses is the air conditioning.”

In addition to addressing the climate challenge, Foothill Transit provides an essential means for advancement, opportunity, and play for everyone in the community.

“Having access to transit allows people to have access to opportunity – whether that’s education, or jobs that aren’t as close as they would like them to be,” says Friesema. “It gives them access to opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

In Southern California, gas prices hit an all-time high at $4.706 per gallon in November 2021, according to the Automobile Club of America. For a portion of riders, owning and maintaining a car is out of reach, and many rely on Foothill Transit’s bus service to get to their jobs, schools, and appointments and to take care of shopping needs.

Foothill Transit connects to stops on the Metro L (Gold) Line, so riders can travel to any location covered by the system’s rail and bus lines.

Transportation also allows everyone to have access to recreation. The agency has a list of 12 hikes and cycling paths that you can get to on Foothill Transit to experience the scenic beauty of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.

Magnolia Trail to Buzzard Peak Road, photo by Sam Orona
Magnolia Trail to Buzzard Peak Road
(Sam Orona)

By creating a cleaner, quieter environment and providing roads for advancement, Foothill Transit is improving life for everyone in the community.

“The better you support transit, the more you use transit, and the more you understand it and how it works in a community,” says Friesema, “the more opportunities you create for everybody – whether you ride or not.“