Metro’s approximately 400-vehicle fleet is designed to accommodate the St. Louis region’s diverse transit needs, which do vary throughout the day, week, and year. Metro’s vehicle fleet is capable of meeting passenger demands during our busier periods of travel. Metro’s service frequency, however, does fluctuate throughout the day. There are two primary reasons why vehicle sizes are aimed at our busiest times. First, vehicles typically pull out early in the morning, and operate on their assigned route(s) throughout much of the day. MetroBus operators actually meet their vehicles on route at the beginning or end of the shift, so while an individual operator may be in service for eight hours, the vehicle likely spans a much longer day. This reduced the amount of vehicle travel back and forth to the garage (called “deadheading”). This results in fewer miles and hours of service operated outside of passenger service, allowing to Metro to provide more service to our customers. Secondly, Metro and other transit operators purchase vehicles with funds from the Federal Transit Administration. The total size of our vehicle fleet, including spares, is limited by the amount of service we operate. This prohibits transit agencies from maintaining separate fleets for different periods of day, resulting in greater utilization of these federal assets.
Metro discontinued use of compressed natural gas (CNG) buses in 2009. At the time, we concluded that our CNG buses had a lower range (they could not travel as far throughout the day) than our service required. Metro is currently testing electric vehicles, and we anticipate that we will begin replacing some of our diesel buses with electric buses in the next few years. In addition to exploring electric buses, Metro is also exploring options for smaller buses on routes with peak passenger volumes that typically fall below 20 individuals.
Battery electric technology is advancing tremendously, and we anticipate that within the next 3-5 years the technology will be capable of meeting Metro’s requirements for range, without re-charging throughout the day. The vehicles we are currently testing are performing well in this regard.
Unfortunately all fossil fuels, including battery electric (which requires coal-powered electricity in this part of the country), natural gas, and diesel fuel all have environmental impacts, and we do consider these impacts, among myriad others, when making decisions regarding our fleets' propulsion systems.
Regarding storing large / small buses and switching them out throughout the day, we would still have to purchase and maintain both vehicles. This is not an efficient use of resources, and the increased operating and capital cost could not be offset by fuel savings.
The safety of our customers and employees is our highest priority. Metro and our law enforcement partners, including St. Louis County Police, the City of St. Louis Municipal Police, and St. Clair County Sheriff’s Deputies have recently increased our public safety presence by nearly 100%. Together, we are working to address crime on the system, as well as the nuisance behaviors you describe. If you do encounter illegal or nuisance activity while on the Metro system, you may alert Metro Public Safety Dispatch directly by calling 314-982-6873.
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