After 21 years of service to the residents of King County, King County Metro is celebrating the “retirement” of the last diesel-only coaches in its fleet, continuing the agency’s commitment to a zero-emission future.
After the first “1100” model coaches joined Metro in 1999, the fleet had 1,100 diesel-only coaches. Today, that number is zero. All Metro coaches are now either fully-hybrid (diesel-electric) or zero-emission coaches (electric trolleys and battery-electric coaches). Metro proudly joins only a handful of large transit agencies in the U.S. that have a fleet that does not include fully-diesel coaches.
However, the “1100” model coaches long served as the workhorse of Metro’s fleet, leaving behind a legacy of providing a safe, reliable alternative to single-occupancy vehicles, logging more than 62 million miles, and carrying hundreds of thousands of passengers.
Five years after the “1100” model coaches’ introduction, Metro purchased the first of its hybrid (diesel-electric) coaches and the transition to more environmentally-friendly coaches began. Then, in 2015 and again in 2020, Metro committed to help meet the goals of King County’s Strategic Climate Action Plan (SCAP).
Prior to the pandemic, public transportation in King County helped take an estimated 190,000 cars off the road each weekday across King County. Transitioning from diesel-only buses to hybrid buses made an already green system even greener by generating 17% fewer greenhouse gases and 97% fewer particulate air pollution emissions per bus.
Additionally, Metro’s entire fleet will be comprised of zero-emission vehicles powered by renewable energy by 2040 or sooner, as technology and capital projects allow. Moving to an entirely zero-emission fleet powered by renewable energy allows for the elimination of all emissions while keeping our county moving forward. Once this transition is complete fleetwide, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking another 30,000 cars off the road.
In spring 2021, 40 new battery-electric coaches will roll off Metro bases and onto the streets of King County. These New Flyer vehicles are the next generation of coaches and, by 2028, Metro will add 260 more battery-electric buses to the fleet along with the accompanying charging infrastructure. This transition supports Metro’s “Mobility Framework”—the agency’s blueprint for centering equity and sustainability in our policies—recommendation in meeting the county’s climate goals by electrifying Metro’s fleet and promoting climate justice.
Along with receiving a “gold tire” in recognition of its devoted service to the people of King County, one “1100” model coach will join its predecessors in retirement as part of the historic bus fleet maintained by the Metro Employee Historic Vehicle Association (MEHVA), a group dedicated to preserving the region’s transit history. Parts and equipment on the remaining diesel-only coaches will be recycled for use throughout the transit fleet.
“When I started with Metro, diesel coaches were the overwhelming majority of our fleet. Today, we are at the precipice of a new generation of battery-electric coaches that will help our passengers get where they need to go while reducing air pollution and combatting climate change.”
Terry White, Interim General Manager, King County Metro
“The retirement of Metro’s last diesel bus is a celebration of our agency’s past, present, and future. We are recognizing the work these ‘retirees’ have done for hundreds of thousands of riders throughout our region, while also marking the exciting transition to an entirely zero-emission fleet by 2040 or sooner.”
Diane Carlson, Capital Projects Manager for King County Metro
“It’s time to celebrate these 95 venerable coaches that have logged more than 62 million miles and carried thousands of passengers who might otherwise have been driving alone, making our climate change challenges even worse. As Metro transitions to a zero emissions fleet that will provide numerous environmental and health benefits, I’m committed to ensuring we uphold the legacy of these 1100 model coaches by providing our customers with fast, frequent and reliable service to get around King County and connect people with opportunity.”
Claudia Balducci, King County Council Chair
“Retirements in general can be both bitter and sweet. Fortunately, there is nothing bitter about this particular ceremony. Today marks the end of diesel-only buses in our nationally recognized transit system. From now on, we will be moving people in this region while advancing necessary and timely climate action policies. I look forward to the day when our system is completely free from fossil fuel and will continue to work ardently at the Council to ensure we are meeting our goals or even exceeding them.”
Jeanne Kohl-Welles, King County Council Budget & Fiscal Management Committee Chair
“The era of big diesel is over, and we are leading the way to the clean and healthy transit system of the future right here in King County. We cannot look back longingly at the days of cheap fossil fuel. We cannot compromise our commitment to fighting climate change with an equity lens. We cannot put the health of our most diverse communities in the back seat. We must press ahead with clean and healthy transit, full speed.”
Rod Dembowski, King County Council Mobility and Environment Committee Chair
“We are experiencing a time where good news is a rare commodity. Therefore, it is such a joy to celebrate that Metro is retiring the last fully diesel buses in its fleet and transitioning to fully hybrid and zero emissions buses. I am also delighted that these zero emissions buses are targeted to areas of the county with the greatest disparities, like south King County. This will have a long-term positive impact on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities that experience climate change injustice, while benefitting the greater community as well.”
Dinah Wilson, Kent Cultural Diversity Initiative Group, Climate Equity Community Task Force member
“The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency supports and celebrates alongside King County Metro as they retire their last diesel-only buses. The ambitious efforts of Metro to electrify and reduce diesel emissions will not only reduce pollution exposure to our disproportionately impacted near-road communities, but also bring us closer as a region to our climate goals. We will not reach the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency’s air pollution reduction goals or greenhouse gas reduction targets without regional leaders like Metro.”
Craig Kenworthy, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency
“All of us can celebrate the ‘retirement’ of King County Metro’s last fully diesel buses. Transitioning to a clean, zero-emission fleet will lead to less air and climate pollution, a cleaner environment, and healthier neighborhoods.”
Pam Clough, Acting Director, Environment Washington
“In King County, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities, particularly in south King County, have been disproportionately affected by air pollution. Metro’s retirement of the last diesel-only coaches in its fleet is an important milestone to develop green infrastructure and make progress towards the climate justice goals of the new Strategic Climate Action Plan.”
Niesha Fort-Brooks, Community Leader