Last month, the Capital District Transportation Authority approved its state-mandated five-year capital plan, outlining over $200 million in total projects, the majority of which would go toward the expansion of its bus rapid transit network.
“The plan includes a variety of innovative ideas and projects,” a staff memo says, “some that may be funded in the future and some that may not.” Only the first year is fully funded through a mix of state, federal, and internal monies.
Among many tentative items scheduled for fiscal year 2020, which starts next April, is $2.35 million for electric buses. That figure would cover about three buses and “the appropriate amount of charging stations,” CDTA communications director Jaime Watson told The Alt.
Historically, the authority has relied on grant funds to purchase alternative-fuel buses, and it would likely pursue that option here, Watson said. CDTA has already won, but not yet spent, a federal grant for one electric bus, which would “replace a 17-year-old diesel” one, according to the Federal Transit Administration’s website.
The authority currently has 77 diesel-electric hybrid buses—about one-third of the authority’s total fleet.
Many cities are gradually transitioning their vehicle stock to electric buses, which tend to cost about $200,000 to $300,000 more than diesel buses, Vox reported last year. Over the next decade, according to analysts cited by Vox, “sales of nondiesel buses will grow much faster than diesel, though by absolute numbers diesel will remain the dominant fuel, because diesel buses are growing from a much larger base.”
Beyond the prospect of reducing diesel emissions and leaving a “greener footprint in the Capital Region,” CDTA’s adoption of electric buses might also decrease fuel and maintenance expenses, Watson said. They’re also quieter—“close to silent,” the Vox article says.
Last year, across the country, electric battery-powered buses made up only about 0.3 percent of systems’ active fleets but 4 percent of contracted orders, according to data compiled by the American Public Transportation Association.
CDTA’s board adopted an $86.1 million operating budget last month for the now-current fiscal year. The planning document, approved before the passage of the state budget, correctly anticipated a two-percent increase in state operating aid. It does not include any fare increases.
“I think we have a solid plan,” chairman David Stackrow said at the meeting, noting that it keeps spending growth under two percent. “Credit to staff for all you do because we are having to make things go farther with, not less, but we’re not really keeping up with the rate of inflation.”