Progress in the push for better buses

Better buses mean better public health with electric buses leading the way. Electric buses have the potential to improve our communities, preventing damaging air pollution and saving taxpayers money through lower operational costs. Fresh Energy and a coalition of environmental justice organizations have been working to speed the transition from polluting diesel buses to clean electricity, and there have been two good signs of progress this past month.

In late September, Metro Transit cancelled a large planned diesel bus purchase. The agency had planned to purchase 131 diesel buses—with an option to purchase 95 more in the future. Given that Metro Transit currently runs a fleet of approximately 900 transit buses, the purchase would have locked in new diesel vehicles for 15 to 25 percent of its total buses for the next 12 to 14 years. In other words, lots of dirty, air-polluting buses on our roads.

The decision comes as the Metropolitan Council focuses greater attention on electrifying its buses. Earlier this year, the Met Council signed a $12.5 million-dollar contract with an electric bus manufacturer, and will soon add its first electric buses to the C-Line running through much of Minneapolis’ North Side. They also are developing an Electrification Plan to transition to clean, zero emission technology.

Support for zero emissions buses was, by an extremely large margin, the most common public comment on the Metropolitan Council’s 2018 Update to the 2040 Transportation Policy Plan. Minnesotans have taken a strong stand in favor of electric buses—and we enthusiastically support them.

“Electric buses have a lower total cost of ownership over the life of the bus, thanks to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel and maintenance cost savings,” said Fresh Energy executive director Michael Noble. “Electric buses save taxpayers money, even before you consider the public health and environmental benefits.”

And there is more good electric transportation progress in the works: Xcel Energy recently proposed new investments in public infrastructure to the Public Utilities Commission, including charging stations for buses. This filing includes pilots to invest in charging stations for both the public and large fleet operators. In their petition, Xcel has proposed to install, own, and maintain electric vehicle infrastructure for fleet operators—reducing these customers’ initial costs in the adoption of electric fleets. They estimate the pilot would help install over 700 charging stations for fleet customers, like Metro Transit.

Fresh Energy is optimistic about an all-electric future and we see Metro Transit and Xcel Energy’s recent actions as steps in the right direction. Fresh Energy and our partners in the Coalition for Clean Transportation will continue to push for greater electrification of our cities’ buses and the fleet cars that travel through our communities. Stay tuned for more updates and opportunities to get involved.

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