fbpx
Connect with us

Thrive

Pinellas County receives $28 million for electric buses

Mark Parker

Published

on

A hybrid electric SunRunner bus. A federal grant will allow the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority to purchase 12 electric buses, four diesel hybrids,12 charging stations and associated equipment. Photo by Mark Parker.

Ongoing efforts to electrify Pinellas County’s public transit system will receive a nearly $28 million boost from President Joe Biden’s administration.

Polly Trottenberg, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), announced the news Tuesday morning in a virtual meeting with local media. The local award stems from a $1.5 billion nationwide initiative.

However, Trottenberg noted that the federal agency received $9 billion in funding requests. She credited the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and CEO Brad Miller for a “wonderful job” when applying for the grant.

“It was very competitive,” Trottenberg added. “Pinellas County and St. Petersburg – you had one of the best applications.”

The $27.8 million in federal dollars will allow PSTA to purchase 12 electric buses, four diesel hybrids, 12 charging stations and associated equipment. The agency operates approximately 210 heavy transit buses; 106 are diesel, 92 are hybrids and just 12 are electric.

However, PSTA’s leadership continues working to electrify its fleet. Congresswoman Kathy Castor has played an instrumental role in those efforts and secured $1.12 million in federal community project funding in March to help the agency reduce its reliance on diesel power.

Miller thanked the U.S. DOT and Castor in a subsequent statement sent to the Catalyst. “This investment will help replace 19-year-old polluting diesel buses with brand-new hybrid and electric buses,” he said.

“It will be a game changer for not only the riders who rely on PSTA to get them to work, school and medical appointments, but the entire Pinellas County community.”

In the past three years, the U.S. DOT’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has awarded nearly $5 billion to replace and modernize transit buses through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. American factories will produce over 4,600 of the new vehicles.

The FTA prioritized applications that will help support U.S. manufacturers with this year’s Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities awards. The Infrastructure Law provides nearly $2 billion to fund the program through 2026.

Ali Zaidi, Assistant to President Biden – also the national climate advisor – said in a prepared statement that the “innovative and common-sense approach is already bolstering manufacturing and creating good-paying union jobs. And it will safeguard the planet for future generations.”

Trottenberg said the electric vehicles are quieter, cleaner, safer and last longer than their diesel counterparts. She also believes the new buses will support “a whole bunch of new routes.”

Trottenberg explained that PSTA’s application successfully demonstrated a need and highlighted the program’s benefits. “Obviously, we’re looking to tackle climate change,” she added.

Polly Trottenberg, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The federal agency received 477 applications and awarded 117 communities.

As a peninsula on a peninsula, the area is uniquely susceptible to sea level rise, flooding and storm surges. Trottenberg said adding electric buses would eliminate “terrible emissions” that exacerbate those conditions and increase accessibility in a growing area.

She also credited St. Petersburg for an “amazing job” implementing the SunRunner, Tampa Bay’s first bus rapid transit system. “I think you all are really leaning into that next generation of transit investments, and we’re excited to partner with you all and support you.”

Trottenberg said the program receiving $9 billion in funding requests shows that buses are not an outdated mode of transportation. Local ridership has recently increased, and she believes new, cleaner and more efficient vehicles will continue attracting passengers.

The initiative also prioritizes local workforce development. PSTA’s application highlighted the importance of training diesel mechanics to maintain and repair electric vehicles and charging stations.

“I think the quality of the applications was very high,” Trottenberg said. “We funded the best of the applications, but there were a lot of good projects that didn’t get funding.”

The federal award represents a continuation of recent good news for the agency and its stakeholders. PSTA’s board discussed eliminating its six least-traveled routes in July 2023, later whittled down to three.

The organization now has a budget surplus. Its leadership plans to implement an express service on 34th Street South in St. Petersburg, a new tourism-focused shuttle service based at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) and oversee the procurement of a new Cross Bay Ferry operator.

At a June 26 budget hearing, Henry Lukasik, maintenance director, said PSTA expected to receive 20 electric buses by October. He noted that the transition would save the agency $552,000 and decrease oil consumption by 1,400 gallons next year.

 

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    pete sabine

    July 14, 2024at9:13 pm

    yet they use a generator to recharge them guess what runs the generator? Oil

  2. Avatar

    Lisa

    July 10, 2024at4:42 am

    There was no mention of PSTA receiving Transit system of the year in the wholecountry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By posting a comment, I have read, understand and agree to the Posting Guidelines.

The St. Pete Catalyst

The Catalyst honors its name by aggregating & curating the sparks that propel the St Pete engine.  It is a modern news platform, powered by community sourced content and augmented with directed coverage.  Bring your news, your perspective and your spark to the St Pete Catalyst and take your seat at the table.

Email us: spark@stpetecatalyst.com

Subscribe for Free

Share with friend

Enter the details of the person you want to share this article with.