Recommendations for Intercity Transit’s zero-transition plan rely on mixed fleet


Intercity Transit (IT) Fleet and Facilities Director Jonathan Yee presented to their board of directors the staff’s recommendations for the agency’s transition to a zero-emission fleet Wednesday, January 17.

While nothing is set in stone for now, the staff’s recommendations see IT using a mixed fleet of fuel cell, battery electric, and propane vehicles for the next eight years.

Yee said that these recommendations would inform a transition plan, but they could modify this document in the future should new vehicles be available. What would be less likely to change is IT’s bus replacement cycle, which would set the timeline for how IT paces its fleet transition.

The recommendations are a result of a study conducted by the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE), which IT hired back in October 2022 to analyze zero-emission fleet technologies available for the agency.

Fixed-route buses

IT’s zero-emission transition for its fixed-route fleet starts this year.

The agency plans to launch its hydrogen demonstration project through a WA Department of Transportation grant. IT plans to purchase three fuel-cell electric buses for the project, followed by another two similar buses after the demonstration phase.

For 2026, Yee said that IT can purchase three battery-electric buses even without a significant electrical upgrade from their utility provider. He added that they could buy five diesel buses but said that they are open to purchasing hybrid buses.

He explained that Cummins, an engine manufacturer for hybrid buses, has yet to provide any certified hybrid engines and that they would only do so again around 2025 to 2026.

“We will be jumping into kind of an end-of-life type of technology so we're thinking it might make more sense to just keep buying in diesel for a while. That way, we’re not fiddling our fleet with potential buses that don't work,” Yee said.

Yee sees IT purchasing ten diesel buses by 2028 and pausing any additional purchases until 2031 so they can assess their fleet as they wait for more technological advances.

“The analogy that we're we're running down the airstrip trying to take off and putting the plane together is very accurate,” Yee said adding, “So many fleets have gone down both paths battery-electric and fuel cell with very major limitations and considerations [so] we've been pretty deliberate about waiting.”

Dial-a-lift, vanpool, and non-revenue fleet

For IT’s dial-a-lift (DAL) fleet, Yee recommends acquiring 12 propane DAL buses for 2025. Yee said they liked the possibility of hydrogen-fueled DAL buses, but do not see such vehicles in the market for now.

By 2027, Yee recommended buying two battery electric DAL buses and another 12 propane DAL buses.

Yee said that IT can begin the deployment of additional infrastructure by 2028 to accommodate 14 battery electric DAL buses in 2031 and another 14 more in 2032.

Staff had no specific recommendations for their vanpool and non-revenue fleet due to their lack of options in the market. Yee said that for now, they would monitor the progression of laws regarding zero-emission vehicles, such as the state’s Zero-Emission Vehicles law, which bans by 2035 the sale of new light- and medium-duty vehicles if they are not zero-emission vehicles.

With CTE’s study complete, IT would now work to create a zero-emission transition plan. Yee said the document would cover vehicle acquisition, change management, and infrastructure training. Staff will also work to meet Federal Transit Administration standards to qualify for grants.


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