Electric bus

Blacksburg Transit will start using some electric buses like the one in this photo.

Blacksburg Transit will begin using electric buses for the first time thanks to $6.9 million in state, federal and local funding.

The money will pay for five electric buses and five chargers, to be placed at BT’s main facility at the Blacksburg Industrial Park, BT Director Tom Fox wrote in an email last week.

The new electric buses will replace five older conventional diesel units, starting in the fall of 2021, according to the town.

“This is a big deal — just that novel experience of riding in a vehicle that hardly makes any noise,” said Kevin Tucker, BT’s communications and customer support manager.

Announcements last week from the town of Blacksburg and Gov. Ralph Northam’s office provided details on the funding.

Of the $6.9 million, $3.3 million is coming from a statewide transit capital fund and the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust.

The VW Trust is the result of a settlement Virginia reached with the German automaker over environmental issues.

The majority of the remaining funding for the electric buses is coming from the Federal Transit Administration, according to figures provided by Tucker. The local source is providing $162,978.

Other entities that will receive electric buses from the recent round of funding are DASH — Alexandria’s transit system — and the Hampton Roads Transit.

“Electric buses are a key component of Virginia’s strategy to address the climate crisis, reduce air pollution in our communities and drive innovations across the Commonwealth,” Northam said in his announcement.

Fox said: “As transportation providers, we’re always looking for innovative and effective ways to help improve the quality of life in our community. These five electric buses and fast-charging stations will help us reduce our carbon footprint, while at the same time reduce our operational costs and dependence on fossil fuels.”

The Blacksburg announcement stated that BT ridership has gone up by 30% over the past three years.

BT currently has a fleet of just under 70 buses.

Two of the five electric buses will be 60-foot articulated units, the ones that bend at the middle. The remaining three electric buses will be 35-foot long units.

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Yann Ranaivo covers local government and politics in the New River Valley, including Christiansburg, Blacksburg, Radford and Montgomery County.

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