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PSTA unveils first all-electric bus, wins grant to expand fleet

Margie Manning

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PSTA's first all-electric bus

Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will have six all-electric buses in its fleet by 2020, after winning the second federal grant in two years to purchase the vehicles.

The Federal Transit Administration just awarded PSTA a $1 million low or no-emission bus project grant, Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, said Wednesday morning.

That’s on top of the $1 million grant awarded in 2017, he said.

Each grant will fund the purchase of two additional buses.

Crist announced the new funding as PSTA took the wraps off its first all-electric bus, which will be part of the revamped Downtown Looper service beginning Sunday. The new Looper service will have an expanded route, run for extended hours and be free of charge.

The electric bus fleet fits with Mayor Rick Kriseman’s plan to help St. Petersburg become resilient, mitigating the impact of climate change and sea level rise.

“For the first time we are developing a comprehensive sustainable action plan. Through that plan, we are going to be a city of 100 percent clean energy,” Kriseman said. “We know that investing in sustainable transportation alternatives is the ground zero for implementing a more environmentally friendly way of life.”

See more comments from the officials at the press conference in the gallery below.

PSTA electric bus

Picture 1 of 7

"We stand here today to announce the beginning of a new era in transportation, an era of technology , innovation and forward-thinking sustainability for our community....I am proud to announce that with the support of our community partners, PSTA will launch Tampa Bay's first-ever zero emission all-electric bus service this weekend." —  Brad Miller, CEO, PSTA

PSTA, the public transit provider for Pinellas County, has a contract with BYD Inc., a Los Angeles-based electric bus manufacturer, to buy up to 20 buses. PSTA bought the first two businesses out of its capital budget in 2016, and the Pinellas County allocated nearly $600,000 that same year to support the purchase of an en-route charging station. The charging station will open in December at USF St. Petersburg, said Ken Welch, County Commission chair.

The new Looper service will cost $1.16 million for its first year of operation, with $300,000 from the Florida Department of Transportation, $353,358 from the city, $389,943 from PSTA and $114,242 from the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership.

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