Some Bloomington-Normal community members are criticizing Connect Transit for purchasing electric buses. The transportation agency at the time said by using state and federal grants, the buses will be paid for with “no local funding.”
Connect Transit Chief Operating Officer Martin Glaze said, yes, those grants are funded through taxes.
“Everyone's helping to contribute to the cost of these replacement buses,” he said. "If we didn't get these grants or use these grants, we would be paying locally to replace those buses. And if we don't use the grant, someone else is going to use the grant. So we'll be paying for their buses.”
Sixty-five percent of the cost is covered by the Illinois Department of Transportation, and 35% is from a federal discretionary grant.
Glaze said the money had to be used for new buses, as outlined by the grants Connect Transit won.
“The reality is, is we have 10 buses that are 16 years old. Fourteen years is the useful life of a bus, so we're already past that,” he said. “So we're putting a lot of labor and parts into these buses, and they need to be replaced immediately.”
Connect Transit announced last month that it will bring 12 electric buses to its fleet over the next four years.
The new Proterra Catalyst E2 electric buses cost an estimated $900,000, or double the cost of a diesel bus. But by switching to electric, Glaze said Connect Transit will save $250,000 per bus on the life of the bus.
Editor's note: WGLT Program Director Mike McCurdy is also chair of the Connect Transit board.
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