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Electric Bus Fleet Rolls Into Dallas

Credit: Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART)

After recent mass transit news out of Chicago and San Francisco, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) agency has rolled out a new fleet of seven zero-emission electric buses. The bright magenta-and-yellow, battery-powered vehicles, developed by Proterra, started running July 2, and are being used for the D-Link route through its free downtown Dallas service, according to a news release from the agency. The buses run seven days a week and connect to riders to arts, entertainment, culture and dining – at no cost to the rider, thanks to a partnership between DART, the city of Dallas and Downtown Dallas, Inc.

The new seven new zero-emission electric buses were partially funded through a $7.6 million Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Low and No Emission Vehicle Deployment Program. The FTA had announced funding availability in an April update. That grand also funded the infrastructure for two overhead chargers installed at Convention Center Station, according to DART’s news release. The Proterra Catalyst 35 buses join the electric light rail trains as zero-emission vehicles in DART’s transit fleet.

The quieter, zero-emission buses charge at the Dallas Convention Center station after each 19-mile service loop. The buses pull into the station, where batteries on the tops and bottoms of the buses fully recharge in less than 10 minutes.

According to reports across the industry, electric buses are more costly than standard fossil fuel options. According to a July 10 article in the Dallas News, the buses, built by the company Proterra, are more expensive upfront than other buses in DART's fleet. Each electric bus costs $971,000, compared with $480,000 for a bus that runs on compressed natural gas. But over the lifespan of each electric bus — about 12 years — DART can expect to save between $300,000 and $400,000 on fuel, according to reports.

With improved charging infrastructure, buses can be fully charged within ten minutes, during scheduled route stops. Additionally, reports note, the costs for operating and maintaining electric buses are turning out to be cheaper, making it easier for transit agencies to take on the expense, especially considering the financial support from federal funds.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) provides transportation to riders across a service area consisting of 13 cities with rail, bus, paratransit, and rideshare services. DART serve DFW International Airport and Fort Worth via the Trinity Railway Express (TRE). After hosting a media event for civic leaders and Dallas officials at the time of the announcement, DART will bring buses on-site at two events later this month to show them off to the public, according to local reports. One will be at 11 a.m. on July 25 at the Pegasus Plaza, located at 1500 Main Street, and at 10 a.m. on July 28 at the Dallas Farmers Market.

Chicago and San Francisco Update their Electric Bus Commitment

In addition to Dallas, a handful of cities have also incorporated electric buses into their transit fleets, as a way to promote green initaitives and contend with climate change. Just last month, a June 13 update from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) reported that the Chicago Transit Board had awarded a $32 million contract for the purchase of 20 new, all-electric buses – the latest investment by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the CTA to completely modernize the agency’s bus fleet and make Chicago one of the greenest cities in the world. According to the news release, the new electric buses will give the CTA one of the largest electric bus fleets in the country.

In San Francisco, an announcement by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) reported that Mayor Mark Farrell and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which operates Muni, had announced San Francisco’s commitment to have an all-electric bus fleet by 2035. This means that the SFMTA will only purchase all-electric buses starting in 2025 to meet the goal for 2035. An all-electric bus does not use fuel and relies solely on the battery within its operating system, according to the May 15 news release on the initiative. In recent years, the SFMTA has replaced over 90 percent of its older diesel buses with cleaner, more efficient electric hybrid vehicles that run on renewable diesel. These electric hybrid vehicles offer dramatically lower fuel consumption, decreased engine idling time while in service, and a substantial reduction in emissions.