AZ Central: Phoenix City Council votes to spend $230M on low- and no-emission buses

The Phoenix City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to spend up to $230 million over the next five years to purchase low- and no-emission buses as part of the city’s plans to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.

“We’re good on clean tech as a City Council,” Mayor Kate Gallego said after the vote.

Phoenix has more than 500 buses that regularly travel 48 routes. While the current buses use alternative fuels that are considered cleaner than traditional gasoline, the City Council in December voted to transition to a zero-emission fleet by 2040.

Wednesday’s vote will allow the city to buy about 40 electric and hybrid buses per year over the next five years. The city will evaluate the initial fleet’s operability and, so long as they meet the city’s needs, purchase more to phase out Phoenix’s existing 335 compressed natural gas buses and 165 biodiesel fuel buses.

“With 500 heavy-duty buses, we have the largest fleet in Arizona, and so when we make steps in this area, it makes a big difference,” Gallego said.

The $230 million allocation will come from federal and regional funds that feed into the Public Transit Department’s capital improvements budget. The financial distribution comes about a year and a half after the council passed its Climate Action Plan and six months after passing its Transportation Electrification Action Plan.

The city indicated in December they would also buy 35 compressed natural gas buses in 2023 and 2024 to ease the transition to electric and ensure uninterrupted service for public transit riders. That purchase will be separate from Wednesday’s $230 million authorization.

The phased approach to replacing the bus fleet stems in part from a backlog for electric buses as manufacturers continue to face supply chain issues. The city’s Public Transit Department also has to test the durability of electric buses. Phoenix’s heat and the impact it could have on the batteries is a concern to city officials. There are also questions about how far the electric buses will be able to travel.

Compressed natural gas buses are considered low emission, while hybrids are near-zero emissions. Battery electric and fuel cell electric buses emit zero emissions.

Read this article on AZ Central.

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