A few hundred Sonoma students hopped aboard new, larger, safer school buses this winter, thanks to a sizeable grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The four new buses replaced four others that are more than 25 years old, taking their place in February on routes through Sonoma Valley.
The new Blue Bird buses are the first in the Valley to have seat belts as well as higher seats, which are safer for passengers. In addition, the buses feature improved exterior lighting, which makes it safer for children to exit in the darker winter months. There are also roof emergency exits as well as better rollover protection for passengers.
Just in time for the hot weather, the new buses are cooler, as they have air conditioning as well as well as tinted glass and white roofs. District bus drivers report that the new buses are quieter, and that they provide greater visibility for drivers with help from some much-needed window defrosters.
The grant covered the costs of four buses – three big ones and one smaller one for special-needs students. The three big buses can hold up to 78 passengers instead of 56.
The smaller bus, manufactured by Thomas Built, holds 24 passengers and two wheelchairs. All four are clean-diesel powered.