Getting on board

$36.1 million in federal funding would fuel rapid electric-bus routes in Austin

$36.1M in federal funding would fuel rapid electric-bus routes

Austin traffic highway I-35 congestion
The fleet of electric buses would ease traffic congestion and provide Austin with more environmentally friendly transportation choices. Courtesy photo

President Biden’s proposed $6 trillion federal budget could drive creation of two “rapid” bus routes in Austin featuring a total of 30 electric buses.

On May 28, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the two projects, which would receive $36.1 million in federal funding if Congress approves Biden’s budget plan for fiscal 2022. The two Austin projects are:

  • A 14-mile, 19-station bus route along Pleasant Valley Road between Northeast Austin and Southeast Austin. Places along the route include Dell Children’s Medical Center, Austin Community College Eastview, and Mendez Middle School. The project would include 16 electric buses, along with bus platforms, shelters, benches, and other infrastructure. Biden proposes $18.3 million in federal funding for the $36.6 million project, which is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2023.
  • A 12-mile, 23-station bus route between downtown Austin and the Travis County Exposition Center in Northeast Austin. Along the route are places like the University of Texas campus, Dell Seton Medical Center, St. David’s Medical Center, Dell Children’s Medical Center, and LBJ High School. The project would include 14 electric buses, as well as bus platforms, shelters, benches, and other infrastructure. Biden’s budget allocates $17.8 million for the $35.6 million project, which is set to launch in the summer of 2023.

Both of the routes would be operated by the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is in the midst of augmenting Austin’s transportation infrastructure though the 30-year Project Connect plan.

The Austin projects are among 25 rail, bus rapid transit, and streetcar projects Buttigieg recommended across 12 states. The projects would receive funding through the Federal Transit Administration and, that organization notes, create hundreds of jobs in construction and operations while also improving mobility for residents in the project areas. For Austin’s east side, that increased access to transportation options has been a long time coming. 

At the heart of the projects is the goal to bring more environmentally friendly public-transportation choices to area residents, though safety, racial equity, and quality of life also remain top priorities.

In addition to the funding for Austin’s projects, Buttigieg also made first-time funding recommendations for transit projects in four other states: Arizona, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin.

“Across the country, communities are seeking to expand public transit as a way to create economic opportunity, improve safety, advance equity, reduce congestion and pollution, and lower the cost of living for their residents,” Buttigieg says.