LS3P Leads the Way in Electrifying Bus Transit Technology
We live in an era marked by rapid progress in technology. One of our most exciting challenges as architects is to create innovative building solutions to support emerging technologies. The zenith is when our buildings support a variety of systems in a manner that sustains the ongoing real-time evolution of the emerging technology. The transportation industry in general and the bus-transit sector in particular, is experiencing a monumental technological shift. LS3P recently had the opportunity to design a facility for the City of Seneca, SC in support of the city’s recent acquisition of the latest transportation technology – a new fleet of electric buses.
The Seneca Transit System is unique. Seneca, SC has become the first municipal bus transit system in the world to run its entire fleet via an all-electric powertrain. While other municipal and regional systems possess a larger number of electric buses, Seneca is the first city to completely commit to a zero-emission bus system. Furthermore, ride-fares in the Seneca system are free, which better serves students and fixed-income populations while encouraging everyone to take advantage of public transit.
The system was made possible through competitively awarded grants from the Federal Transit Administration, the Center for Transit Administration, and the South Carolina Department of Transportation along with the cooperation of Clemson Area Transit. These grants supported the acquisition of five electric buses from the Greenville-based manufacturer Proterra – making the city doubly green by choosing a local source for their cutting-edge technology. The Proterra buses are fast-charging and provide noise-free operation. The cooperative spirit between all of the partner organizations involved strengthened the project, facilitating collegial cooperation during the extensive advance planning, bus route studies, and pre-implementation research to establish the fleet support facility’s operational requirements.
LS3P’s project role provided leadership through pre-project master planning, design, and construction administration services. The resulting fleet support is housed in an adaptively reused 28,000 square foot mid-century industrial plant which has been transformed into a specialized facility to support, maintain and house the electric bus fleet.
The fleet support facilities include an equipment maintenance shop with work stations, vehicle maintenance bays, portable vehicle lifts, portable gantry crane and designated indoor bus parking. Also included in the program of spaces are staff development and support areas that provide training rooms for staff and drivers, administrative offices, lockers, showers, quiet room break room, and exercise room.
The project also included two remote charging stations at two separate bus-stop locations, one at the Oconee Hospital and the other in Seneca’s Central Business District adjacent to their Park-and-Ride site. The downtown charging station also includes a covered waiting area and public restrooms.
Since the transit center opened in the spring of 2015, the sustainability metrics document an impressive record. The electric bus fleet has proven to be five times more efficient than diesel vehicles, and creates zero-pollutant output through fossil fuel-free operation. During the first eighteen months of service, the electric fleet’s reduction in carbon produced (as compared to diesel buses) was the equivalent to removing more than 78 passenger vehicles from the road for a full year, or the amount of carbon sequestered by 304 acres of forest land. Individually, the virtually silent buses operation cost has been roughly $0.26 per mile, as opposed to $0.66 per mile for diesel buses. The statistics on reduction in maintenance cost are similarly impressive, at $0.55 per mile for electric (compared to $1.53 for diesel). To date, the system has eliminated over 2,848,000 pounds of greenhouse gases, the equivalent of planting approximately 60,000 trees.
The project cost of $1,200,000 demonstrated that the expenses associated with supporting a small, electric, leading-edge-technology fleet are modest. The Seneca experiment has proven that an electric bus fleet system model is downwardly scalable, conclusively demonstrating its viability to other small cities in both North America and Europe that wish to replicate this system. As transportation systems continue to evolve at a rapid pace to accommodate additional previously unimaginable technologies, thought leaders in architecture will continue to embrace the challenges presented with design solutions to support these technologies. From retrofitting formerly idle facilities for twenty-first century uses, to integrating new systems such as highly specialized charging and maintenance equipment, LS3P is proud to support innovation in our municipal and regional transit systems. The future is bold and we among the first to demonstrate our readiness to embrace it.
LS3P Associates, LTD
John Edwards, AIA, NCARB
Dean Oang, Assoc. AIA, Green Globes Professional
Kara Turner, NCIDQ
Mechanical & Plumbing Design
WG Bartlett Engineering
William (Bill) Bartlett, PE
Don Burdette, PE
Seamon Whiteside + Associates
Joe Bryant, PE
Andy Sherman, Vice President