On Thursday the mayor of Bucharest signed 11 financing contracts, that have European Union backing, to purchase 80 streetcars and 100 electric buses. These new vehicles will be used to upgrade Bucharest’s overwhelmed public transit system. By being electric, the new vehicles are also expected to reduce air pollution in Bucharest.
I have traveled to Bucharest several times, and use the public transit system as much as possible. It is clearly overwhelmed by the number of people using the system, and the system has a lot of old vehicles. The streetcars in particular seem to be left over from before the fall of the Communist government 30 years ago. At the same time the number of cars crowding Bucharest is ballooning, thanks to the growing income of the population.
In January I used an air quality meter to check air pollution levels at a major intersection. Readings showed that air in the middle of the intersection were at the low end of the unhealthy range.
The contracts signed this week are for 11 projects that together comprise purchase of “80 de tramvaie, 100 de autobuze electrice” – translation: 80 streetcard, and 100 electric buses. A Romanian tramvaie is what is called “Light Rail” in the USA, and is an electric vehicle running on rails, powered from overhead electric lines. An autobuze is a normal bus, to an autobuze electrice is an electric bus.
I’m being careful with the wording because another project was signed last fall for another purchase. That project comprises “la 130 de autobuze hibrid şi 100 de troleibuze”, meaning 130 hybrid buses and 100 trolley buses. A Romanian troleibuze is a regular bus, but powered from overhead wires.
Since troleibuze is a type of bus that’s been in use in Bucharest for decades, it is clear that autobuze electrice is a different kind of bus that will not be powered by overhead wires but by on-board batteries.
The stated goals are decreasing air pollution, increasing efficiency of the transit system, and encouraging more people to use the transit system. The last point might seem moot since the transit system is so completely overcrowded. But what’s happening in Bucharest is many people are actively seeking alternatives.
The number of cars is rapidly increasing. During our trip last fall, I noticed a lot of people using electric scooters and electric skateboards, and I know a lot of folks are taking Uber. Generally the public transit system has a poor reputation.
Going by the report, the total funding appears to be over 300 million euros.
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