By Lesley Henton
Published: August 3, 2021
Texas A&M University students are riding the state’s first university-operated electric buses on campus and throughout the local community.
Thanks to its partnership with Brazos Transit District (BTD), Texas A&M Transportation Services was able to share in a $14 million Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
grant which allowed the university to purchase three electric buses,
as well as 24 diesel buses to replace some of the fleet’s older vehicles.
Transportation Services Director Madeline Dillard said the grant covered 70 percent of the cost of the three electric buses;
Texas A&M paid the remaining 30 percent from the University Advancement Fee, which funds campus transit.
The buses arrived on campus in mid-June and have been running routes since July 12, Dillard said, noting the team wanted to ensure the buses worked properly,
begin gauging performance and train drivers before the fall semester begins.
She said electric buses are not only environmentally friendly, they are more cost efficient.
“Over time, it’s going to cost less to run an electric bus compared to diesel,” Dillard said. “It’s less expensive to run from a mechanical standpoint, there are no emissions and no fuel costs.”
Dillard said that thanks to the federal grant, the university will recoup its money. The buses, which are full-size, run all day on one overnight charge.
And they are also quieter, which can be double-edged sword, she said.
“It’s a nice, quiet ride for passengers and the campus,” Dillard said.
“But they can be dangerous for distracted pedestrians who have become accustomed to listening, rather than watching, for approaching vehicles before stepping into the road.”
She noted the buses do have an audible chime when turning to alert pedestrians.
The buses will be officially launched at a ceremony on Aug. 10 at 9 a.m. at the Memorial Student Center at Lamar St.
A variety of campus, local and state officials will be present, and attendees can ride the electric buses during the event.
Dillard said the staff at Transportation Services is very grateful to BTD, which “did all the work” in obtaining the grant.
“They should be recognized for their efforts of working with legislators and others for support of this grant application and securing this funding,” she said.
Jo Marlow, vice president for marketing and communications for BTD, thanked all involved for their participation in pursuing the grant,
including former U.S. secretary of energy and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who wrote a support letter for the grant application.
“Secretary Perry’s strong support was instrumental in securing the federal funding to purchase the first electric buses at Texas A&M,” Marlow said.
Dillard said one day the entire fleet of Texas A&M buses could be electric, but there are no immediate plans for that at this time.
“We have a lot of new diesel buses, so we’re not looking to make the switch just yet,” she said. “You have to start somewhere and these first three are a great start.”
Texas A&M carries more than 6.4 million passengers annually, making it the largest transit provider in the state, outside of Texas metro areas.
Additionally, Texas A&M has:
Graduates who are working throughout the state in major transit agencies thanks to their experience as student drivers.
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