VRT staff are currently negotiating a contract with California-based Proterra to purchase 12 battery-powered, full-size electric buses.
“Valley Regional Transit is dedicated to delivering exceptional service to its citizens and supporting livable, healthy and sustainable communities,” said Kelli Badesheim, Executive Director at VRT. “Electric buses help us meet these goals. Battery-electric buses are better for the environment and offer a better rider experience for our community, and we’re excited to be working with Proterra to bring the first electric buses to Idaho.”
More than 30 years ago, VRT began the purchase of buses that operated on compressed natural gas to replace diesel buses. A big factor in the conversion to CNG was the Treasure Valley’s growth and concerns about air quality. The region is prone to prolonged winter inversions. These atmospheric inversions can trap polluted air and make it unhealthy to breathe.
VRT is joining a growing trend nationwide regarding the use of electric buses. According to a November 2019 article posted on the insideclimatenews.com website, there currently about 650 electric buses on U.S. roads. It is expected that by the year 2045, at least a third of the nation’s nearly 70,000 public transit buses will be all electric.
In the region, King County Metro, the public transportation authority for King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, currently has 174 electric trolley buses and 11 electric buses with charging stations. Metro says plans to have 625 battery-powered electric buses over the next 20 years.
The electric buses will replace CNG–powered buses that are or will be past their useful life.
The money needed to purchase the buses will come from a variety of sources. Last summer, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded a total of almost $85 million in federal funding for low or no-emission bus projects. VRT received a $3 million grant to purchase up to eight battery-electric buses, charging stations, and personnel training. These grant dollars will be combined with $750,000 local match, and about $2.8 million in previously programmed federal formula funds and local match totaling $9.4 million to procure the eight vehicles.
The VRT Board of Directors in January approved a resolution allowing for the purchase of up to 12 electric buses from Proterra.
If all goes well, the 12 electric buses will be delivered to Valley Regional Transit during the first quarter of fiscal year 2021 (October 1-December 31, 2021). We expect the buses to be placed into service during the second quarter of 2021.
We will provide you with updates on this exciting news as circumstances warrant.