Driving environmental change

Cap Metro charges forward with mass purchase of 200 battery-powered buses for Austin

Cap Metro charges forward with purchase of 200 battery-powered buses

Electric bus Austin
The electric buses start hitting Austin roads next year. Courtesy of New Flyer of America

Nearly 200 buses powered by electricity will soon hit the streets of Austin.

The board of Austin’s Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the city’s public transit system, voted September 27 to spend $255 million on 197 new battery-powered electric buses for its fleet. Cap Metro says it’s the largest-ever purchase of electric buses in the U.S.

Many of the new buses, being made by New Flyer of America and Proterra, will replace regular Cap Metro buses. Cap Metro plans to transition its more than 400 diesel-powered buses to battery-powered buses by 2035. The agency already is using 12 electric buses.

The first of the 197 electric buses are supposed to be traveling on Austin roadways in 2022. The vehicles will be delivered over a five-year period.

“Using zero-emissions  buses adds to the quality of life of the Austin community,” City Council Member Pio Renteria says in a Cap Metro news release. “Once these buses are in service, they will be used for new bus routes in underserved areas of East Austin. They will also be critical for providing the area’s residents convenient access to work, healthcare, educational, and recreational opportunities.”

Cap Metro says the electric buses will cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 115 tons a year. Transportation accounts for an estimated 36 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Austin.

Aside from zero-emission features, the buses will include USB charging ports, plug-in and overhead charging, and an open seating plan.

In a September 29 news release, Mac Dressman, transportation associate at public interest nonprofit U.S. PIRG, applauds Cap Metro’s order for nearly 200 electric buses.

“Austin’s investment in a clean, zero-emission future shows that the city is serious about acting on pollution and climate change. Rolling out this many electric buses is a big win for mobility, public health, and the environment in Austin,” Dressman says.