The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, which serves the cities of St Petersburg and Clearwater on Florida’s West Coast, has become the latest of many transit agencies around the country to consider deploying electric buses.
At a recent public meeting, the PSTA board voted to buy 3 diesel hybrid and 2 electric buses, if the necessary funding can be arranged, and directed staff to immediately issue a request for proposals (RFP) for electric buses.
The agency has been buying exclusively diesel hybrids for the past 8 years, but has struggled with some maintenance issues. A staff committee recommended that PSTA go back to buying legacy diesel models (!), but the board soundly rejected that option.
Four electric bus manufacturers have presented their products to PSTA over the last year, but the agency has never formally issued an RFP. The new RFP will direct applicants to include an option to lease the batteries (typically about a third of total vehicle cost) in order to shift part of the procurement costs from capital funds to operating expenses.
PSTA’s decision follows an organized campaign led by the Suncoast Sierra Club and the Tampa Bay Zero Emission Coalition, a group of 39 businesses and other local organizations. Over 50 e-bus supporters attended the meeting, and the coalition presented a petition signed by 625 local residents.
PSTA has made the purchase of electric buses contingent upon obtaining funds for an en route fast charging system, and hopes that some of the money that Pinellas County received from the 2015 BP oil spill settlement will be allocated for this purpose. If all goes according to plan, PSTA will place two electric buses in service by 2017.
Source: Sierra Club Florida