Nashville rolled out new downtown electric buses on Tuesday — a $7 million upgrade to the downtown circulator system that features zero emissions and a new level of tranquility for city transit.
The new buses are almost too quiet for Nashville MTA CEO Steve Bland.
“One went by me and you could hear the tires rolling on the ground,” he said, laughing. “That was essentially the discernible sound.”
“It’s really quiet,” said commuter Michael Briggs. “It’s almost like you’re missing some background noise, I think. It makes for an awkward situation at first.”
Bland and Briggs eventually helped break the silence during a ride alongside Mayor Karl Dean on one of the new all-electric models.
The new additions look more aerodynamic than an average bus and glide along without fumes. But it’s what’s on the roof that makes the big difference. An overhead battery charging station gives the bus full juice in just 10 minutes. Then veteran driver Angela Nance can go 25 miles like never before.
“A regular bus, you would feel every bump,” she said. “On this bus, you barely even known it’s on, it’s so smooth.”
Regular rider Iris Dedeaux Patterson, who works a state government job downtown, noticed the difference.
“I definitely noticed that as soon as we got on. It’s not as jerky or anything as the previous one,” she said. “A pretty smooth ride.”
The mayor liked it too — even better than the hybrid buses that will now be used elsewhere.
“This is the ultimate,” Dean said. “This is zero emissions. It really makes almost no noise at all … I think it just makes everything more relaxed and more pleasant for people.”
A federal clean-air grant paid for half of the electric system, made up of two charging stations and nine buses. They loop around downtown on two routes, providing free, mostly short trips for rail commuters and tourists.