Getting around on mass transit is already the cleaner commuting option. Now the U.S. Department of Transportation wants to help transit agencies take it a step further.
The Federal Transit Administration is investing $59.3 million, through the Clean Fuels Grant Program, in 27 projects that reduce emissions from buses and improve fuel economy.
"President Obama is committed to investing in sustainable transportation systems that improve access to jobs, education and medical care for millions of riders, while bringing cleaner air to our communities and reducing our dependence on oil," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. "These projects will also help transit agencies operate more efficiently, and save money in the long run."
The grants will support transit agencies in switching from older diesel buses to hybrid-electric buses, compressed natural gas buses, or 100 percent electric buses. In addition to bus replacement, the funds will help cities build fueling stations for buses that use alternative fuels and purchase batteries for hybrid buses.
While 27 projects were funded, there were 146 projects seeking funds amounting to over $500 million in desired bus upgrades.
Investing in cleaner buses makes sense in light of the fact that transit ridership continues to rise in the United States. In 16 of the last 19 month transit ridership has increased. Last July alone transit ridership was up 2.5 percent over the past 12 month period.
At the same time, electric and hybrid bus purchases are also on the rise. In North America, hybrid models account for about 40 percent of new bus purchases, according to Pike Research. And from 2012 to 2018 the electric bus market is expected to grow by 26 percent.
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