C-Tran unveils new ‘Green Zone’ feature to reduce fuel consumption and emissions


Buses in the Vancouver area are more energy efficient than ever before with C-Tran’s new “Green Zone” feature on select buses. 

On Dec. 9, the Vancouver-based transportation agency deployed the new Green Zone system on two of its diesel engine buses. The new feature will automatically turn off the bus’s diesel engine when in one of two areas of Vancouver. Buses travelling near the Vancouver Mall Transit Center in central Vancouver and the Fishers Landing Transit Center in East Vancouver will rely solely on battery power to propel themselves. 

C-Tran Communications and Public Affairs Manager Christine Selk said discussions and planning for the Green Zone feature have been in the works at C-Tran for about a year and a half. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, C-Tran initially planned to release the Green Zone feature on buses that the agency uses on the express routes into downtown Portland and the transit mall in the city. However, due to the pandemic, C-Tran has changed its express services and the two buses equipped with the technology currently spend their time north of the Columbia River. Selk said that C-Tran hopes to use the Green Zone feature in downtown Portland “once things return to normal.”

The feature uses a special GPS tracking feature that automatically switches the bus to battery power once it enters the designated area. Two miles before reaching the zone, the bus enters “charge” mode to bring the battery pack up to full charge. Selk said C-Tran chose the zones they would like to be included and sent the information to New Flyer of America, the manufacturer for the new buses. The entire process is done automatically without the driver changing course or pushing buttons, and in the Green Zone, the buses are emission-free. 

“It’s great for the environment and great for taxpayers because it’ll cut down on our fuel usage,” Selk said. 

While the agency does not have exact numbers on how much diesel fuel the new feature will save just yet, Selk said C-Tran is able to request the information at any time and can get exact numbers in the future. 

According to Selk, the Green Zone trial run on two buses doesn’t have a “sunset date” and C-Tran will continue to monitor data for the foreseeable future. If the program sees success, Selk said C-Tran will move the Green Zone feature out of its pilot program and equip more buses with the technology to use the zones as well as increasing the area of the program. 

“We are only the third transit agency in the country to undertake this initiative,” Selk said, mentioning that the Green Zone program was brought to C-Tran by BAE systems, which builds hybrid buses and other sustainable technology. “The other two cities (San Fancsisco and Nashville) have both seen success with the program.” 

Along with possibly expanding the program in the future, Selk said C-Tran is on track to receive a shipment of 100 percent electric buses near the end of 2022, with more buses coming in the future. 

For Selk, creating a “greener” and more sustainable transportation system is core to beliefs at C-Tran. A few years ago, the agency created a “green team” and received a Green Business certification from the Clark County Green Business Program in 2019. Along with reducing emissions through programs such as Green Zone and using hybrid buses, Selk said C-Tran recycles all of the cigarette butts in the ash trays at its stops along with all of the coffee pods employees of the agency use. 

“Sustainability is a very important principle for us,” Selk said. “In the time I’ve been here, I’ve seen a really strong emphasis placed on sustainability and looking at things through a sustainability filter and paying attention to our footprint.”