FTA Putting $787M Into Public Transit; CNG, Hybrids Are Big Winners

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are mobilizing $787 million to help modernize various aspects of the nation's public transit infrastructure.

Back in February, the agencies announced that more than $825 million in fiscal-year 2012 federal funds could be put to work following a request for proposals. The FTA says it received 836 applications totaling $4 billion in requests, and the final awards reflect 255 projects in 48 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

Most of the new awards are being funded through the FTA's State of Good Repair and Bus Livability initiatives, both of which are a part of the larger Bus and Bus Facilities program. A smaller number of projects are managed under the Transit Asset Management initiative.

Behind the agencies' Bus and Bus Facilities program, as well as their Clean Fuels program, is a push to improve U.S. transit infrastructure, upgrade or replace aging transit vehicles and support clean-fuel advancements. In part, the RFP went after projects that would ‘exhibit equivalent or superior emissions reductions to existing clean fuel or hybrid-electric technologies.’

A number of projects will enable public fleets and transit authorities to replace existing – and old – diesel buses with new stock featuring hybrid-electric powertrains. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is among the entities receiving a large award – $15 million – to support the acquisition of 40-foot hybrid buses.

Other California-based fleets that are deploying hybrids include the San Mateo County Transit District ($4.95 million) and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority ($3.75 million).

Big awards aimed at supporting a higher uptake of hybrid buses are also found outside of California. For instance, NJ TRANSIT is receiving $27.26 million to help purchase new hybrid cruiser buses to serve as over-the-road coaches. The Chicago Transit Authority is using $20.5 million to acquire articulated diesel-electric buses, and Miami-Dade Transit is getting $10 million for its new units. Funds for hybrid buses are also going to public fleets in North Dakota, North Carolina, Indiana, Georgia, Washington and Oregon.

Alternative-fuel public transit powered by propane autogas and biofuels also received federal funds. In Flint, Mich., the Mass Transportation Authority will use $4 million to buy both hybrid-electric and propane buses, and the City of Ames, Iowa, and the Ames Transit Agency attained a $2.03 million award to acquire biodiesel buses.

A sizable complement of projects – nearly two dozen – involve fleets making a shift to compressed natural gas (CNG). NJ TRANSIT is the most conspicuous awardee, with a $46.3 million grant in hand to support a push to CNG. Indeed, this funding will help the fleet more than double its complement of natural gas-powered buses.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit ($12 million) and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority ($10 million) also received large awards pegged at CNG fleet conversions. The majority of the grants, however, are in the $1 million to $3 million range, and public fleets from Idaho and Utah to Pennsylvania and Florida are pursuing CNG-powered public transit with these funds.

Additionally, a couple more novel projects related to CNG received funding. For instance, Palm Springs, Calif.'s SunLine Transit Agency was awarded $1.46 million to replace the solar array that powers its CNG refueling infrastructure. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, which is running almost entirely on CNG, netted $10 million to modernize a maintenance facility to accommodate such a large portfolio of natural gas vehicles.

More information about all the projects is available HERE.

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