Metro Transit said Thursday it will temporarily discontinue its recently launched electric bus service along a busy route until problems with the vehicles’ chargers are fixed by the bus manufacturer.
In the meantime, diesel buses will provide service for the C Line rapid bus service that links downtown Minneapolis to Brooklyn Center.
“We’re obviously disappointed that things are not as seamless as we expected them to be,” said Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla. “We’re looking forward to getting them back on the road.”
When the $37 million C Line debuted in June, eight of the line’s 14-vehicle fleet were electric buses — a first for the transit agency. Metro Transit officials see electric bus service as more environmentally friendly than traditional diesel and hybrid vehicles.
The 60-foot electric buses, manufactured by New Flyer of America in St. Cloud, were supposed to charge overnight and then stop for a quick 12-minute charge at the Brooklyn Center Transit Center while in operation. But issues surfaced with the electric fleet’s charging equipment.
It’s unclear what the problem is. Padilla referred questions to New Flyer and said he couldn’t predict when the electric vehicles would begin service again. The company’s Canadian-based parent, NFI Group Inc., could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The diesel replacement vehicles will be larger articulated or accordion buses “when possible,” Padilla said.
The C Line is the second rapid bus line in the metro — the A Line in St. Paul began service two years ago and saw an increase in demand at a time when local bus ridership is down. The 8½-mile C Line follows the popular Route 19 local bus itinerary, largely along Penn Avenue on the city’s North Side.
A big rollout of rapid bus service, which offers service like that of light rail, is planned by Metro Transit. Passengers pay before boarding, stations are heated and feature schedules in real time, and three doors on the bus speed boarding. The buses have signal priority at intersections and fewer stops to smooth the way.
The $75 million D Line, planned to begin service in 2022, is slated to replace the Route 5 bus that operates mostly along Chicago and Fremont/Emerson avenues in Minneapolis and is the busiest in the state. But state legislators this year did not fund $20 million that was needed to complete the project earlier this year.
The B Line, now the Route 21 bus operating along Lake Street in Minneapolis and Marshall Avenue in St. Paul, is slated to begin service in 2023, and the E Line, largely on Hennepin Avenue, a year later. Other rapid bus routes have not been finalized.