Rochester secures funding for first electric bus
Rochester Public Transit has obtained funding from the federal government that will allow it begin operating electric buses in the near future.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has awarded the City of Rochester $2.3 million through its Low or No Emission Vehicle Program. The local funding was part of an $84 million grant package distributed to transit operators across the nation that are investing in green technologies.
In Rochester, the money will be used to fund an electric charging system and at least one 60' articulated electric bus. (The FTA grant did not cover the full $3.7 million request from the city that included a second bus.)
Bryan Law, the city's transit planner, said the goal is to use the startup money to test the performance, capacity and economics of electric buses to determine what role they might play in Rochester's future transit fleet.
“This grant award will allow us to test a new technology — all-electric transit vehicles — that holds great promise," said Law, who helped author the grant. "With this funding, we can move ahead with vehicles and fueling systems that would otherwise be quite expensive to deploy.”
The addition of electric buses comes as Rochester looks to synchronize the expansion of its transit system with the growth expected under Destination Medical Center. As we reported here in February, the city is introducing major changes aimed at boosting frequency and improving ride transfers.
There has also been serious talk of adding bus rapid transit to city streets. In 2017, 1.8 million trips were made through Rochester Public Transit.
“Rochester is a worldwide hub of innovation,” said City Administrator Steve Rymer. “With this grant, our city transit service has an opportunity to advance the use of renewable energy and to explore cleaner and more efficient ways to move people through our growing urban core.”
To start off, Rochester Public Transit plans to use the higher capacity of the 60' articulated bus for their busiest routes, namely the IBM and RCTC park-and-ride lots. But Nick Lemmer, who handles communication and outreach for RPT, said the end use of Rochester's first electric bus will likely depend on vehicle performance and charging characteristics.
In addition to the Low-No Grant, the city is also expecting to get the results of another grant application in December. This one, administered by the Federal Department of Transportation, is a $6.5 million request by the city for four more electric buses, plus a charging station and solar panels.
Cover photo: Electric bus demo in Rochester/ Tom Roster