CP photo by Ryan Deto
In September 2017, the Port Authority of Allegheny County was awarded a federal-government grant to purchase the agency’s first electric bus. The electric bus will likely serve the 88 route that runs along Penn Avenue from Point Breeze to Downtown, and Port Authority officials say it will serve as a test bus for the proposed Bus Rapid Transit
, which hopes to include 25 electric buses.
But Pennsylvania state Rep. Ed Gainey (D-East Liberty) and environmental and transit advocates want a larger commitment to electric buses. Eventually, they want to see the majority of Port Authority's fleet become electric
, and are also hoping area school districts build up a fleet of electric school buses.
“We have to save Mother Earth,” said Gainey at a May 3 press conference at the East Liberty transit station. “The more we can invest in cleaner air, the more we are looking to the future. And we know electric buses are the way of the future.”
Rachel Filippini of Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) said at the press conference that pollution from buses that run on fossil fuels
can be additionally harmful to people since the emissions
are pumped into the air at ground level. She said exposure to diesel exhaust can contribute to higher cancer rates and that children are especially vulnerable.
“If Pittsburgh and Allegheny County want to reduce the effects of climate change, then reducing emissions from buses is a big part of that,” said Filippini. “Electric buses can help.”
Laura Wiens of Pittsburghers for Public Transit applauded the incremental progress the Port Authority has seen in winning the $500,000 grant for the agency’s first electric bus, but said there are multiple funding sources available that could help build a large scale fleet of electric buses. She mentioned that Pennsylvania is receiving about $118 million in a settlement from auto manufacturer Volkswagen. Wiens said some of that money could go to purchasing electric buses.
“Transit can dramatically reduce our carbon footprint,” said Wiens. “We hope to see a more robust effort.”
Gainey said he would do his part to make sure the Pennsylvania General Assembly is supporting additional funding for electric buses. He said he would work with transit and environmental advocates in possibly crafting legislation related to electric buses.
According to a September 2017 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article
, a diesel-powered bus costs about $480,000 and an electric bus about $800,000. But Ashleigh Deemer, of statewide environmental group PennEnvironment, says upfront costs will likely be offset by electric buses operating costs. According to a PennEnvironment study, diesel-powered buses have an annual operating costs of more than $60,000 and diesel-hybrid buses have an annual operating cost of more than $50,000. Electric-powered buses have a much lower annual operating cost at around $30,000.