The state of Virginia will allocate more than $12 million in state funding to deploy electric transit buses in three Virginia localities, using nearly $9 million from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust (VW Trust) that the Commonwealth received as part of its settlement with Volkswagen. In total, 17 electric buses and charging infrastructure will be deployed by local transit systems in Alexandria, Blacksburg, and Hampton Roads.
The $9 million from the VW Trust will be augmented by $3.5 million from the statewide transit capital program, as well as another $6.5 million in federal and local funds. This allocation is part of a commitment announced last fall of $14 million in VW Trust funding for electric transit buses.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will make the remaining $5 million of the $14 million initial allocation available for electric transit buses for next year’s transit grant cycle, which will open on 1 December 2019.
Last week at its meeting in Richmond, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved the Fiscal Year 2020–2025 Six-Year Improvement Program, which allocates funding for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT). DRPT is working closely with DEQ, the designated lead agency implementing Virginia’s VW Trust allocation, and the Virginia Department of General Services (DGS) on this important initiative to accelerate the transition to a cleaner transportation system for all.
Recipients of VW Trust and statewide transit capital funding include:
Alexandria (DASH): $5.1 million for six battery-electric transit buses and fast chargers
Blacksburg Transit: $3.3 million for five battery-electric transit buses and fast chargers
Hampton Roads Transit: $3.9 million for six battery-electric transit buses and fast chargers
Following a comprehensive review and analysis of all funding requests by DRPT and DEQ, these buses were identified for replacement using DRPT’s Making Efficient and Responsible Investments in Transit (MERIT) project prioritization process. Funding recipients must purchase the electric buses and place them into service within two years.
With savings from lower fuel and maintenance costs consistent with electric vehicles of all types, using electric buses will also reduce operational costs for transit agencies. The typical useful life of a transit bus is twelve years. By investing in electric buses, over that time, these transit agencies will, combined, eliminate the need for approximately 2 million gallons of diesel fuel and avoid 612,000 tons of carbon emissions and 129,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide emissions.
A 2018 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists rated Virginia as one of the best places for electric buses based on carbon emission, with electric buses producing less than half of the climate pollution of diesel or natural gas buses.
Statewide contract for electric buses. Virginia’s Department of General Services (DGS) has established a statewide contract for electric transit buses, based on specifications outlined by DRPT that will be open to all state and local public bodies. Having a statewide contract for these critical assets decreases administrative contract costs for transit agencies and expedites the procurement of electric buses.
The vendors approved for the state contract are New Flyer, Gillig, Prevost Car and Proterra.
VW Trust. The $93.6 million the Commonwealth was awarded as its share of the Volkswagen settlement has provided a unique opportunity to make catalytic investments in transportation electrification. Last fall, Governor Northam announced that the Commonwealth of Virginia would invest a portion of the VW Trust to replace older diesel transit buses with battery electric transit buses through a new Clean Transportation Voucher Program implemented through DRPT’s annual public transportation capital grant cycle known as MERIT.
This follows an earlier award of $14 million to EVgo to build a high-powered electric vehicle charging network across the Commonwealth. EVgo and DEQ broke ground on the first of those stations last month.