PSTA to add electric, hybrid buses to its fleet using federal grant money

A cleaner, quieter ride is en route to Pinellas County.

U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg announced Tuesday that the federal agency is awarding the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority a $27.8 million grant. The money is for 12 electric buses, four hybrid buses and 12 depot chargers and equipment, according to Trottenberg.

The money comes from the bipartisan infrastructure law passed in 2021.

She said PSTA was chosen among nearly 480 applications submitted from communities across the country. PSTA was one of 117 selected.

"It's going to be replacing a bunch of older diesel buses that the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has in its inventory," Trottenberg said. "The new buses will be cleaner and they will be quieter, and hopefully have longer running times and be safer as well," she said.

The grant will help modernize transit buses and reduce air pollution, the U.S. DOT says. Right now, PSTA has about 100 diesel buses in its fleet of 210 buses. Switching out 16 diesel buses for electric and hybrid will save close to $437,000 in fuel costs annually, a PSTA spokesperson said.

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"We couldn’t be more thankful for the USDOT and Congresswoman Kathy Castor for their support for public transportation and commitment to a sustainable future. This investment will help replace 19-year-old polluting diesel buses with brand-new hybrid and electric buses. It will be a game changer for not only the riders who rely on PSTA to get them to work, school, and medical appointments but the entire Pinellas County community," PSTA said in a statement.

PSTA also plans to use some of the money to train and teach employees about the new buses and their technology. This was a selling point in the agency’s application for the grant, Trottenberg said.

"It is another thing I think our administration is very focused on making sure as we make these investments in infrastructure all over the country, that we’re also investing in our workforce, training people to operate and maintain this new infrastructure," she said. "We got a total around the country of $9 billion in requests, so it was very competitive, and Pinellas County and St. Petersburg, you had one of the best applications," Trottenberg said.

Currently, PSTA has 12 electric buses and 92 hybrids. In the next five years, a PSTA spokesperson said it plans to have about 74 electric buses in its fleet.

As far as when the new buses will hit the road, the spokesperson said it usually takes 18 to 24 months to make one electric bus.

The U.S. DOT is awarding $1.5 billion in grants altogether.

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