­The Federal Transit Administration recently awarded Pierce Transit a $2.55 million “Low or No Emissions” grant to purchase the agency’s first-ever, all-electric, zero-emission buses and related infrastructure. The “Low-No” grant program aims to put a new generation of advanced, non-polluting transit buses on roadways across the nation.

The new vehicles will be the first all-electric buses to operate in the South Sound, but it’s not the first time Pierce Transit has chosen clean-running vehicles. The agency has a history of providing environmentally friendly transportation.

Pierce Transit CEO Sue Dreier
Pierce Transit CEO Sue Dreier speaking at the podium during the agency’s electric bus roll out event on September 11. Photo courtesy: Pierce Transit

“Pierce Transit began its commitment to clean energy 30 years ago when it converted most of its bus fleet to running on clean, compressed natural gas,” says Pierce Transit CEO Sue Dreier. “This new electric technology will help us build on our strong legacy of environmental stewardship and deliver a clean, quiet ride for our customers.”

The funding was awarded with the support of numerous area organizations, as well as elected officials, showing their support through written letters that Pierce Transit submitted along with its federal grant application. Senator Patty Murray wrote a letter of support for Pierce Transit’s grant application, along with Senator Maria Cantwell and Representatives Derek Kilmer, Denny Heck, Adam Smith and Dave Reichert.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee also wrote a letter of support to accompany the application, saying, “The agency has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to the environment as evidenced by its 1986 pledge to operate the majority of its fleet on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), which produces 20 percent less pollution. The inclusion of electric buses will diversify Pierce Transit’s propulsion systems, further reduce emissions and enhance the agency’s sustainability efforts.”

Electric buses
Elected officials and others in front of the bus after ribbon cutting on September 11. Photo courtesy: Pierce Transit

While almost 80 percent of Pierce Transit’s current fleet runs on clean compressed natural gas, the new electric buses will replace some of the agency’s remaining diesel buses.

If you’re wondering how far the electric buses can go on a charge, there’s good news.

“The new buses have a range from 150 to 180 miles, depending on a variety of factors,” says Skip Huck, Pierce Transit Executive Director of Maintenance. Skip says while the buses are in use they can run around eight hours before needing a charge, and recharging isn’t a time-consuming effort. “We usually charge them three to four hours overnight to be ready for the next day,” Skip continued.

Rep Denny Heck
Representative Denny Heck speaking at Pierce Transit’s electric bus roll out event on September 11. Photo courtesy: Pierce Transit

He went on to say the electric buses’ range will allow them to work on the majority of Pierce Transit’s routes, so there are plenty of options. To start, they will run on routes 11 and 41.

Luckily for riders, the wait to take a ride on one of the new buses is almost over.

“The electric buses will be on the road for the first time October 17,” says Rebecca. “To celebrate, we are offering free rides on all our buses, electric and otherwise, that day. If you haven’t hopped on a bus before, this is the perfect opportunity to try it.”

The October 17 free ride day is also part of the state’s Wheel Options Campaign, which encourages commuters to reduce their ride-alone days and explore new ways to get to work. The campaign runs the entire month of October.

For more information on the new buses, visit Pierce Transit’s electric bus webpage.


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