Transportation

Federal Money Adds Charge to Gainesville’s Electric Push

A $1 million infusion from the Federal Transit Administration is fueling the purchase of three full-size electric buses in the Florida city.

by Andrew Caplan, The Gainesville Sun / August 31, 2018
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(TNS) — Gasoline may not be such a hot commodity for the city of Gainesville in the coming years.

As city officials prepare for the launch of its four electric autonomous shuttles, they're also gearing up to purchase three electric full-size transit buses.

The city of Gainesville was one of three Florida agencies recently awarded a $1 million grant by the Federal Transit Administration for the purchase of electric buses. Broward County and Pinellas-Suncoast Transit Authority were the others.

Last year, Gainesville was awarded the same amount for the electric vehicles. Each electric bus is an estimated $600,000.

City spokesman Chip Skinner said the grants pay for three electric, 40-foot buses and two charging stations. The buses will be the same size as the RTS buses in service currently and will hold up to 72 people, he said.

"This will allow us to save on fuel costs and it's more environmentally conscious," Skinner said.

In a year, a single RTS bus requires an estimated $29,000 for fuel. Skinner said the buses will replace other aging buses, saving the cost nearly $90,000 in fuel annually.

The city has ready access to electricity from Gainesville Regional Utilities, it's municipal power utility.

"It's also going to lower our fleet age," he said. "This is federal money that the city isn't contributing to."

The purchase, route and launch date for the buses are still unclear, but Skinner said it will likely be decided in 2019.

Earlier in the year, the city was told it would receive another $2 million in grants to fund other transportation projects and upgrades.

Skinner said some of the money will go toward upgrading fare boxes to allow smart card or mobile payment, upgrading the on-board voice notifications that tell people what stop is next. The city will also add 15 automated passenger counters to ensure more accurate ridership numbers.

The city also announced last month that it would add free Wi-Fi to several buses as a pilot project starting sometime in August. But the launch hasn't occurred, yet. Skinner said the Wi-Fi buses will initially be tested on routes revolving the University of Florida.

©2018 The Gainesville Sun, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.