MARTA tests out new eco-friendly electric bus

MARTA customers will soon be able to board an eco friendly bus called a Proterra's Catalyst Electric. Signal archive

The Metropolitan Atlanta Transit Authority (MARTA) is driving towards green pastures with its new electric bus, Proterra’s Catalyst Electric.

The Catalyst Electric is currently on loan to MARTA from Proterra for the duration of the pilot stage. The ongoing pilot plans to engage the company in a hands-on approach to learn what riders want out of a local transit system.

According to CEO Keith Parker, MARTA has a diverse array of buses ranging from the low-emission Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) bus, which makes up a majority of their fleet, to the 60-foot articulated “bendy” bus, which gives riders more seating capacity for the busiest routes.

“As we look to secure MARTA as an innovative leader within the transit industry, the progression to electric and even autonomous buses is important in shifting the perception of public transportation as an environmentally beneficial infrastructure within our society,” Parker said.

The Proterra Catalyst Electric is a 40-foot, battery charged bus. Since there will not be an engine inside the bus, there will be more space for riders without compromising its size. These buses are capable of seating up to 40 riders.

According to Proterra, the absence of an engine makes the electric bus lighter, with a weight of 27,370 pounds, compared to the 38,000 pounds an average transit bus would weigh. This will be an ideal component for roads with conditions that may not be able to handle heavier vehicles.

The battery-charged Proterra will be able to run over three hours on a single charge and will take around 10 minutes to recharge and get the bus back on a full battery.

There are no additional costs that come along with the Proterra bus because it is a pilot program. However, MARTA does need to outfit the test routes with charging stations for the bus. The test routes for this pilot program are located in both Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Erik Burton, MARTA’s senior director of media relations said, “[The] information from this pilot program will help steer MARTA in the right direction regarding the integration of electric vehicles to our fleet.”

The goal of the pilot program is to help recognize the benefits and identify any possible changes related to integrating new, cleaner technology into the current system, according to Parker.

“With more MARTA initiatives paving the way for potential expansion projects, we want to ensure that the footprint our buses leave behind supports healthy, sustainable communities,”  he said.

MARTA is yet again set to add another type of bus to their fleet. The new 30-foot buses, named ‘Vicinity’ busses, will enable bus operators to navigate some of the narrower streets and neighborhoods that make the city more effective.

“From the double-decker bus to our most recent Catalyst Electric bus, we are always looking for ways to diversify our fleet,”  Parker said.

The pilot program for the Proterra bus will determine the size of the fleet of new electric buses for MARTA. The Proterra bus is scheduled to begin service in April in Fulton and DeKalb counties.