By Mari Cruz, Emily Vu & Cool Davis Staff

Did you catch the bus with us ? On March 19th, Cool Davis hosted a fun and relaxing tour — by way of an electric Unitrans bus to the bus charging stations — as a way to show our appreciation to our donors, sponsors, and volunteers. We hope you all had the opportunity to get together with old or new friendly faces to talk with us about the city’s plans, climate, and of course, electric vehicles! The day’s main topic of discussion was Unitrans’s commitment to a fully electric bus fleet by 2033. The event consisted of a celebration at the U.S. Bicycle Hall of Fame and two tours on an electric Unitrans bus to the Unitrans charging facilities, one before and one after the celebration.

The celebration for donors and volunteers featured guest talks from Supervisors Frerichs and Provenza and Mayor Will Arnold reflecting on the ongoing work of climate action, as well as local goals and plans to meet the challenges of climate impacts we are now experiencing locally. Supervisor Frerichs had just returned from participating in a statewide retreat of local leaders and expressed excitement at the focus on the importance of local leadership on climate there.  Supervisor Provenza spoke about Yolo County 2030 goals and the new Climate Action Commission leading the County planning process. Mayor Arnold reflected on the necessity and difficulty of ensuring climate equity and responding to the need for more housing and other local government challenges alongside our climate goals. All were excited to participate in the electric bus tour since all these leaders had participated in supporting the planning and funding for these new buses for nearly a decade.

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The tours left the Bicycle Hall of Fame enroute to the Unitrans charging terminal. Cool Davis Sacramento Valley College Corps fellows provided a handout from Unitrans detailing Unitrans’s ambitious undertaking, including a breakdown of the funding, costs, next steps, etc. Currently, they envision a full conversion through a three phase process. Phase One replaces 14 fossil fuel-based buses to electric, which is to be completed as soon as 2024. Currently, Unitrans has six electric buses servicing the city with the plan to add a set of four this summer with another set of four in the summer next year, thus completing Phase 1.

Sheila Allen, Deputy to County Supervisor having participated for many years as a member of the Unitrans Advisory Committee representing seniors was especially excited to ride the bus and see the facilities. She commented that.  “It is really gratifying to see all the work and plans come to fruition. The partnership between the City of Davis and Unitrans and our regional funding support structure is our strength!”

Touring the charging facility

On the tour of the charging facility, the groups met with Shawn Shockey, the maintenance manager for Unitrans. Shawn did a great job handling this curious crowd and was able to answer just about every question we had from “How fast does it go from zero to sixty?” to questions about battery quality and impact on the power grid. Meeting with Shawn was a great opportunity to see the electric buses and learn something new. He walked the tour groups through the terminal facility now outfitted with 7 chargers serving 14 stations.

John Johnston, outgoing Vice Chair of the City of Davis Natural Resources Commission (NRC) has also served as a representative from the NRC to the Unitrans Advisory Committee.  “Seeing that line of big heavy duty chargers was really impressive; and knowing that someday soon  a bus will be attached to each of them is something to celebrate!”

On the way home

The bus was filled with dialogue on the way back to the Bicycle Hall of Fame including discussions on regenerative braking and the cost of this new investment. Ken Kirsch, owner of MAK Design Build and Cool Davis Board member was surprised. “ I had no idea how much a regular bus would cost, let alone a new electric one ($950,000/bus)!  It was really cool to experience and see this bus in action. I am so excited that our community and Unitrans have made this investment in our future!”

Overall, we hope whoever attended enjoyed the tour and the experience of getting on the bus!  The progress Unitrans has made is thrilling and we are only in Phase 1 of 3 in their plan to be fully fossil free by 2033. 

Below are some of the best photos from the event! Thank you Johan Verink!