Blacksburg Transit (BT) will add five new electric buses to its bus fleet over the next two years.
The five electric buses will replace five of the BT diesel buses in fall 2021. Two of the electric buses will be 60 feet long, and the other three will be 35-foot long units according to The Roanoke Times.
“We’re proud to partner with BT to provide safe, reliable, and environmentally friendly transportation for the Virginia Tech community,” said Virginia Tech parking and transportation director Jeri Baker to VT News. “The new electric buses will be an exciting addition to the area’s public transportation infrastructure.”
BT is Virginia Tech’s public transportation system that provides bus services for Virginia Tech faculty, students and members of the Blacksburg and New River community. BT is pre-paid for all Virginia Tech faculty and students who show drivers their Hokie Passports.
“Electric buses are a key component of Virginia’s strategy to address the climate crisis, reduce air pollution in our communities, and drive innovation across the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Ralph Northam in a statement about state funding for electric transit buses in Virginia. “We are demonstrating how entrepreneurs, government and industry partners are coming together to implement the best renewable energy technologies available and power the clean economy.”
A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists showed that electric buses produce less than half of the global warming emissions that diesel or natural gas buses produce; the release also stated that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified diesel exhaust “as a major factor in the urban air pollution that disproportionately affects low-income and disadvantaged communities,” thus electric buses may provide more benefits to communities that have been greatly affected by fossil fuel pollution.
The energy-efficient buses and fast chargers will cost a total of $6.9 million. Funding for the project will be supported by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, among other local, state and federal sources.
Approximately $3.3 million will come from the Environmental Mitigation Trust (VW Trust) and statewide transit capital funding.
Currently, BT operates a fleet of 69 buses on 18 routes around Blacksburg and Christiansburg that also connect to other routes in Radford, Roanoke and Washington, D.C.
BT ridership has increased by over 33% in the past three years, VT News said.
Moreover, in July, BT was named the 2019 Outstanding Transit System for North America by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), an award that includes all bus systems in North America as well as rail transportation systems. BT received the award in the small urban system category, where ridership is 4 million or less.
“As transportation providers we’re always looking for innovative and effective ways to help improve the quality of life in our community,” said BT director Tom Fox. “These five electric buses and fast charging stations will help us reduce our carbon footprint while at the same time reduce our operational costs and dependence on fossil fuels.”