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Two hybrid-electric buses added to Duke bus fleet

Duke Parking and Transportation Services will introduce two new hybrid-electric buses Nov. 14, both featuring an accordion-style middle section.
Duke Parking and Transportation Services will introduce two new hybrid-electric buses Nov. 14, both featuring an accordion-style middle section.

Commuting between campuses is about to get a little greener.

Duke Parking and Transportation Services are introducing two hybrid-electric buses on the C-1 and C-2 bus routes traveling between East and West campuses Nov. 14. The Duke bus fleet of more than 30 buses currently consists largely of older vehicles—ranging from 1994 models to decade-old buses. In conjunction with plans to acquire eight standard diesel buses, Duke is looking to update the transit system to meet modern needs, Sam Veraldi, director of Parking and Transportation Services, wrote in an email Monday.

At a cost of $1.8 million, the two new hybrid-electric buses will serve to both increase capacity and decrease carbon emissions. The purchase falls in line with the University’s Climate Action Plan, which seeks to minimize University emissions and reach carbon neutrality by 2024.

The pair of buses, which are manufactured by a subsidiary of Volvo called Nova Bus, have an “accordion” segment built into their design. This allows for a significantly increased capacity of up to 30 additional people.

“We have plans to achieve climate neutrality as an institution by 2024,” said Casey Roe, outreach coordinator for Duke Sustainability. “Although only 25 percent of the emissions come from transportation, Duke has always wanted to make its fleet more efficient.”

The Duke Sustainability office worked with Duke Parking and Transportation Services to add more environmentally-friendly buses to the fleet. Although the buses were ultimately picked by the transportation office, they will work to fulfill the goals set by Duke Sustainability, reminding students to “bleed blue, live green.”

Similar to the athletics “wrap” seen on one current bus, Roe said the new hybrid duo have both been “wrapped” with a sustainability message—including recommendations about general sustainable practices and information about specific campus efforts to be “green.”

“The wrap incorporates photos of students at the Duke Campus Farm, promoting local food,” Roe said. “There is also a photo of the steam plant close to campus that runs on natural gas, displaying clean energy—and a highlight of sustainable living featuring the Duke Smart Home.”

Students on campus believe that the new buses will result in more efficient commutes.

“I like having more buses because I find it hard to get to East, particularly when I have a narrow time slot between classes from 2:30 to 2:50,” sophomore Jill Prier said. “But the fact that these new buses are hybrid is the best part. And the wraps will serve as great free advertising to all the sustainability efforts on campus.”

Students and staff expressed previously that the stops between the two main campuses are not being serviced enough, especially with the addition of the express C-1 routes, The Chronicle reported Sept. 7.

Duke officials have also voiced concerns about the buses’ length of 62 feet and issues with drivers trying to maneuver tight turns on campus routes. Several bus drivers declined to comment on the possible adjustments.

The buses are not the only effort that Duke is making to increase sustainability in transportation. In the beginning of the year, the WeCar system replaced Zipcar as the campus car rental service. Duke also offers its students and staff GoPasses—free local and regional bus passes in another effort to be more energy efficient.

“We really want people—especially outside Duke—to know that our University is working on reducing carbon emissions,” Roe said.

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