Transit agencies across the state got another push on the road toward all-electric bus fleets on Tuesday with the announcement of another round of hefty grants made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The Chicago Transit Authority received the largest grant in the state, nearly $29 million, which will help the CTA buy electric buses and modernize its electrical, communications and safety systems at bus garages. It’s all part of the CTA’s efforts to have an all-electric bus fleet by 2040.
A zero-emission fleet will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, advance environmental justice and create jobs — and could reduce CO2 emissions by more than 8,270 tons, according to the transit agency.
“It’s vital that the CTA system be sustainable, affordable, and efficient for both our residents and our environment,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in the news release announcing the grants. “With this grant funding, not only are we taking steps to protect our environment, but we are leading the way for other municipalities.”
Some of the grant funds, about $3.4 million, will be used to buy 10 e-buses, and $13.2 million will go toward upgrading the Chicago Avenue Garage in Humboldt Park — selected as the first location to be fully modernized to service and charge the electric buses.
That garage serves an area whose population is 93% minority; 86% of residents also are considered low income, according to a CTA spokesperson. Prioritizing this garage to support CTA’s bus electrification effort will help bring environmental benefits to areas where air quality is often worse.
An additional $1.1 million will be used for workforce development to train staff on maintaining and operating its electric fleet.
“These funds, which were not originally anticipated as part of our ‘Charging Forward’ plan, will allow us to accelerate the expansion of our all-electric bus fleet, further highlighting the CTA’s commitment to deploying the cleanest and most energy efficient U.S.-made transit buses,” CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. said in the news release.
For now, the CTA has more than 20 e-buses in its fleet. All operate on route No. 66, which runs along Chicago Avenue from Austin Boulevard at the western edge of the city all the way to Navy Pier.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration said the grants distributed Tuesday totaled $1.66 billion. The money went to transit agencies, territories and states nationwide to invest in 150 bus fleets and facilities. This year’s funding is expected to nearly double the number of no-emission buses on American roads.
While CTA’s grant is good news to many, it still falls significantly short of what some other large transit agencies received.
The Massachusetts Bay Authority, serving greater Boston, for example, received $116 million. Transit agencies in New York City ($116 million) and Los Angeles County ($104 million) also received far more for new e-buses and charging equipment.
Other Illinois transit agencies also received millions under the federal grant.
Other areas of the state getting grants to their public transit systems included Decatur ($16.8 million), Bloomington-Normal (over $13 million), Rockford ($6.3 million) and Springfield ($5.9 million).
The funding will help each transit agency either purchase diesel-hybrid buses or electric buses and build out e-bus charging facilities.