1117_NL_TCAT electric bus.jpg

A TCAT electric bus.

The day before it is being forced to vote on reducing service, TCAT announced new funding for adding more clean buses.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration and U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office notified TCAT General Manager Scot Vanderpool that his agency was awarded an $8.74 million grant through the FTA’s Low or No Emission (Low-No) Grant Program. The money will be used to purchase 10 more battery-electric transit vehicles, to include six 40-foot and four smaller buses.

In April 2021, TCAT launched seven of its first-ever electric-battery buses, manufactured by Proterra, after securing money from the Low-No program. TCAT’s goal is to transform its entire fleet of what is now comprised of more than 50 buses to become entirely emissions free by 2035.

“Our riders and community members have been so appreciative to see emission-free mass transit vehicles on the street; tangible evidence that we are making strides toward a cleaner-and-greener future,” Vanderpool said. “Our community has always been forward-thinking in pushing for environmental sustainability, which in turn has inspired TCAT to aggressively pursue funding over the past several years to make that vision a reality.”

According to an FTA news release issued on Tuesday, that reality from a national standpoint translates to hundreds of cleaner vehicles on the country’s thoroughfares. “With today's awards, we’re helping communities across America – in cities, suburbs, and rural areas alike – purchase more than 1,800 new buses, and most of them are zero-emission,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, in the news release. “Funded through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this announcement means more good jobs for people across the country, cleaner air in our communities, and more affordable and reliable options to help people get to  where they need to go.”

Earlier this year, TCAT started the lengthy procurement process to purchase what was initially proposed to be five more full-sized Proterra buses to arrive on site by late spring of 2023. TCAT is still finalizing the funding mechanism to pay for those buses, which might include money from a combination of state-administered capital funding programs and existing capital money from TCAT’s own coffers. Due to financial constraints, however, that acquisition is not yet finalized and the number of buses from that order might be reduced to three or four, Vanderpool said.

“Naturally, this week’s FTA award announcement really took a great deal of financial pressure off of TCAT to fulfill much-needed capital improvements,” Vanderpool said, “And, we are so thankful to the Biden Administration, to New York’s U.S. lawmakers to include both Sen. Schumer and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and our many other advocates for their tireless efforts at getting this massive clean-energy legislation through its many hurdles.”

Vanderpool said the next step is for TCAT staff to establish a timeline for yet another procurement process, noting that it takes several months to manufacture any type of transit bus. He said the current plan is to use the award to fund six 40-foot Proterra Model ZX5 electric buses; four smaller Lightning E Motor electric micro buses; overhead chargers to be installed at TCAT’s facility; and money to train TCAT mechanics on emission-free technology.

(1) comment

Amber Jones

Has TCAT looked into the numerous reports of issues with Proterra buses ranging from problems with them melting and catching fire (Foothill Transit in California) to the weight of the batteries cracking the frames (Philadelphia) and causing brake issues on hills (Duluth, MN). Are these buses even that green given the tremendous amount of energy the lithium batteries require during manufacturing and recycling (assuming they are recycled)? Who will be paying for them to be properly disposed of at the end of their lives? Does the technology even exist yet to do so safely (some "recycling" requires the use of such dangerous chemicals that it can't really be called green)?

In order to choose the best technologies for the environment, we need to know ALL of the negatives as well as positives of the technologies in question. The companies selling these technologies and politicians making fortunes off of them are the last people we should be relying upon for this information.

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