A 35-feet-long blue vehicle with a giant logo reading “ZEPS” across the side rolled through Ashland on Tuesday, welcoming passengers aboard to check out what could be part of the future of transportation in Ashland, Medford and Grants Pass.
The Zero Emission Propulsion System electric bus, complete with a tidy driver in a hat and tie, started out at at ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum, also hit Mountain Meadows in the morning, then moved to Southern Oregon University and Ashland High School in the afternoon before winding up on Main Street at the Chamber of Commerce.
A steady stream of visitors boarded the bus, took a seat and chatted with the driver.
The visit, which was organized by Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN), ScienceWorks and Southern Oregon Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Association (SOHEVA), was intended to educate visitors and answer questions about advantages of the clean mode of public transportation, according to organizers.
“I’d like to see us get it," said Linda Reppond, as she cradled her hot drink in the drizzle just outside the buses door. “It’d be nice if it could be painted in an Ashland kind of way, maybe green with some natural colors? I love this. I think it's what we need to do. If the route ran near the hospital where I live I’d take it all the time. I’d love to not get in my car. I feel like we should have done it earlier, but now is good. I love the electricity and no emissions.”
Reppond would like a local bus that could shuttle downtown workers and locals who struggle to find parking during peak tourist season.
“It solves the parking problem," she said. "I don't want to build a parking garage. No more buildings to house cars.”
Her enthusiasm was matched by others who stopped to check out the bus, including former Ad Hoc Parking Committee Chair Dave Young. “I think this is a great inspirational model because people see what's possible," Young said. "It's a great example of an alternative.”
“I think this wonderful," said Sally Collonge, who said she was excited about the proposition of getting off of fossil fuels transportation. "Anything to revamp what we’re doing is good.”
The cost of the display bus — a revamped, used model — is just under $600,000 dollars. Brand new it would be $250,000 more. It is on its way to Josephine County, where it's one of four under consideration for purchase by that county's transit authority.
Sixty people walked through the bus on its Ashland tour. The bus holds 35 passengers and goes 140 miles without needing a recharge.
In Ashland, the Transportation Commission plans to hold a special meeting in early February dedicated to transit within Ashland. Transit is expected to be the primary agenda item on the agenda at the regular meeting on March 23.
Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.