The Central Ohio Transit Authority has added two electric buses to its fleet and will buy another eight to be delivered next summer. The first two will start running on Monday, October 11.
“Our ambitious and achievable goals are for COTA to be diesel-free by 2025 with net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and these electric transit vehicles are the latest step we are taking to make this a reality,” said COTA President/CEO Joanna Pinkerton in a statement.
The agency still has 79 diesel buses in its 321-vehicle fleet, and plans to buy 28 more compressed natural gas buses per year through 2025 in order to phase those out. Future purchases of electric buses have not been scheduled, but COTA plans to “continue to study the feasibility” of adding more of the vehicles to its fleet, according to a press release.
The new buses are built by New Flyer and will be charged at COTA’s Fields Avenue facility. They’ll be used on shorter routes that will allow them to return for charging after four to five hours on the road.
One of the vehicles was on display at a media event on Wednesday, alongside a second electric bus that is already in service at the new rental car facility at the John Glenn International Columbus Airport.
“People have been really happy that it’s a quieter, cleaner and more sustainable ride,” said Sarah McQuaide of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority.
COTA engineer Dan West said that the agency’s two new buses are both equipped with rooftop pantographs that will allow them to – eventually – be charged during 15-20 minute layovers at bus stops.
“We went ahead and ordered them now, because we know in the future we’re going to have [chargers] throughout the city,” he said. “We don’t know exactly where we’re going to have them, but it’s a lot easier to have [the rooftop charging equipment] installed during the production build than it is to retrofit and add them later.”
“This is the future of transit,” said City Council President Shannon Hardin, who attended the unveiling event. “We know that transit accounts for so much of the carbon emissions that we have, and to be able to have COTA and the airport both moving forward with these types of investments, it’s a really big deal.”
Harden said that electric buses could end up being used for the new Bus Rapid Transit lines that are planned as part of the LinkUs initiative.
“It’s our hope, for sure…when we think about our goals for LinkUs, it is sustainability, it is connectivity; these buses are not just quieter, they’re not just cleaner and safer, but far more connected,” he said. “With LinkUs, though, there are other types of transit that could be on those lines as well.”
In other COTA news, the agency’s board approved a new fare policy designed to save low income riders money at its September 29 meeting.
COTA has posted a video of the new buses in action at the Transportation Research Center.