BlastPoint’s March 2020 Map of the Month
Modernizing public transit toward zero-emission, clean energy takes courage, funding and strategic partnerships among dozens of stakeholders. Yet some cities have figured out how to make battery-electric public buses work for their communities and residents.
While still more expensive upfront than their diesel-powered ancestors, EV buses cost less in future maintenance, reduce tailpipe emissions, cut down on noise pollution, and help communities improve respiratory health.
We got to wondering which North American cities have been able to successfully coordinate and roll out EV buses so that we could learn how they’re doing it. Thus, we bring you BlastPoint’s March 2020 Map of the Month, featuring five North American cities that are leading the battery-powered bus revolution.
Denver, Colorado’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) adopted electric buses several years ago, and today operates one of the largest EV transit fleets in the U.S. The city has nearly 40 EV buses in operation today.
But it hasn’t come easy. State-level policies have had to be built from the ground up. Incentives that convince utilities to enter the EV landscape have had to be crafted and adopted. And operating costs due to the high price of electricity have had to be negotiated in court. These barriers are just some of the things that have kept the Mile-High City from reaching zero-emission goals.
Now, with new rates agreed upon through RTD’s working partnership with Xcel Energy, Denver is proving that green buses really do work. So much so that clean transit in Denver serves as a model for other cities that are considering the transition to battery-electric fleets.
In 2020, Portland’s Trimet Transit System is considered a seasoned veteran in fuel-efficiency vehicles. They’ve been experimenting with hybrids and alternate fuel-powered buses since the early aughts. With like-minded, regional partners like Portland General Electric helping to support the spread of adoption, it’s no wonder Portland leads the pack in fleet electrification.
But now they’ve taken things to the next level by harnessing the power of zero-carbon wind to fuel their fleets. Portland has purchased The New Flyer Xcelsior CHARGE™ zero-emission bus, which gets its power from wind turbines, a step that will surely help the city reach its goal of operating an entirely non-diesel fleet by 2040.
Austin’s Capital Metro announced in January that it had officially launched its first two of what will eventually be 80 electric buses over the next five years. The new vehicles arrive as part of the city’s Project Connect program, which is working toward an “all-electric, zero-emission transit system” across Austin.
These clean-powered fleet buses come from Colorado manufacturer Proterra, two years ahead of schedule, thanks to grants from both the U.S. Department of Transportation and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
We’ll be keeping eyes on Austin in the coming months to see how the rollout affects ridership, air quality and operations costs.
The Toronto Transit Commission, the largest transit operator in Canada, introduced two battery electric buses onto the streets of “Hogtown” in January, with eight more from Los Angeles, CA-based manufacturer BYD on the way.
But this BYD order of 10 is merely the icing on TTC’s electric bus cake. They’ve got 25 more coming from Colorado’s Proterra, and another 25 on the way from the nearly 100-year old Winnipeg-founded New Flyer Industries, Inc.
Funding for this massive investment in green infrastructure comes from the Government of Canada and the City of Toronto as part of the federal Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF).
Perhaps it’s this kind of commitment to clean technology that earned Toronto the title of 2019’s 2nd Best City in North America for Quality of Life.
New York, NY
New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) released 15 all-electric articulated buses onto the streets of Manhattan in January. “Articulated” refers to those extra-long buses that have the accordion connector section in the middle so that they can carry more passengers.
Along with the new buses, which replace those that have been operating since the 1980s, come 16 EV charging units and one mobile charger. This move reflects Phase 1 of the city’s plan to acquire 500 total green EV buses so that a clean fleet can serve all five of the city’s boroughs.
It’s an ambitious goal for such an enormous city. But NYC’s 2020-2024 Capital Plan makes stakeholders prepared, as they’ve dedicated nearly $55 billion in transit infrastructure investments to be released over the five-year period. Only some of that money goes toward battery-powered buses, though; the rest will go toward upgrading the city’s aging subway system, shoring up tunnels and bridges, and modernizing rider access.
We wish the Big Apple all the best in this gargantuan endeavor. The 2.4 million people who ride its buses every day ought to be grateful for the reduced tailpipe emissions.
Does your city operate battery-electric public buses? We’d love to hear about it! Do you have a personal story you’d like to share about riding an electric bus? Tell us! We love hearing from you.