While consumers wait for alternative fuel vehicles to be cheap and reliable enough for mass use, municipal programs have been enthusiastic about the trend away from gas and diesel-powered transit vehicles. On Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced almost $60 million in new funding to help transit agencies purchase and support cleaner vehicles.
According to Secretary LaHood, the funds will be used to power 27 different transit projects across the nation. Emphasis will be placed on securing cleaner, greener buses capable of reducing harmful emissions and improving fuel economy while also delivering a more comfortable, reliable ride for passengers.
The funding will be divided up between the winning applicants as grants. The competition for a grant was very intense, with 146 project applications totaling around $516 million in funding requests. The winning transit projects are those believed to be most in need of upgrading, or those where use of alternative fuel vehicles will have the most impact on the budget and environmental health of the community. In this way, smaller towns had just as much of a chance as big metropolitan transit programs.
Some projects selected for funding include:
- $4.4 million for the Transit Authority of River City in Louisville, Kentucky, to replace outdated, high-emission trolley cars with zero-emission buses, which will bring the transit system into compliance with federal clean air requirements for the first time and enable the transit authority to save on operating costs for years to come.
- $2.5 million for Florida’s Miami-Dade County to retrofit older buses with new electric engine cooling systems that will improve fuel economy, reduce emissions, and prolong the life of the transit bus fleet.
- $4.5 million for the Worcester Regional Transit Authority in Worcester, Massachusetts, to replace aging diesel transit buses with zero-emission, all-electric buses, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decrease fuel consumption, and save on operating costs.
For the past several years, America’s infrastructure has ranked among some of the worst in the world. Experts estimate that the federal government has invested about 40 percent of what is needed to repair and upgrade the country's rapidly disintegrating roads, bridges, and public transportation systems. Despite the lackluster offerings when it comes to U.S. public transit, high gas prices and a trend away from vehicle ownership has resulted in an increase in transit ridership across the U.S. In July 2012, ridership was up by 2.5 percent over the prior twelve-month period.
“As more and more Americans choose to ride the bus to work and elsewhere, it’s good to know that they can depend on vehicles that won’t pollute their neighborhoods, while also helping us to achieve greater energy independence,” said FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff. “By investing in these clean-fuel projects today, we’re helping to ensure that the nation’s transit services are good for the environment for years to come.”