- Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has started running a fleet of seven electric buses in part of a pilot program that the city’s transit agency can expand if successful.
- The buses run on a 19-mile loop on the D-Link route, with scheduled stops to charge at the Dallas Convention Center. Batteries stored on the top and bottom of the buses can fully recharge in less than 10 minutes to cover the full length of the route.
- The buses are built by California-based Proterra and cost about $970,000, roughly twice the cost of a compressed natural gas bus. A Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant helped pay for the fleet, and transit officials told Government Technology that reduced maintenance and fuel costs will help offset the up-front cost.
Dallas joins several other cities in looking to electrify its bus fleet, even with a higher cost of the vehicles and construction of charging infrastructure. Washington, DC put 14 electric buses on its Circulator system this spring, Columbus, OH has plans to purchase 10 electric buses, and San Francisco has started replacing its hybrid buses as part of a push to fully electrify its bus fleet by 2035. The availability of federal funding has made the buses a reality — the FTA in April announced more than $84 million in grants for advanced transit buses.
However, significant questions remain. DART spokesman Morgan Lyons told Government Technology the agency "wanted to learn more about electric buses" because the transit industry doesn't yet "know all we need to in order to make a complete transition." There are concerns about the long-term health of the buses, and whether they can handle the heavy loads and decade-plus of expected use (cities like San Francisco, with challenging road conditions, pose additional problems). But Dallas appears to be starting relatively small, with only seven buses running on a set route well within the battery range.
A transition to electrification could help Dallas meet its goals of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, which it set in 2014, in part by encouraging residents to take public transportation. Because transportation is often one of a city’s largest emissions sources, any steps public transit agencies can take to reduce their climate impact will go a long way to broader climate goals.