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Hillsborough County Eyes Electric Buses

Sam Newlon
WUSF Public Media
Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority previews the Proterra Catalyst, an electric bus that gives off no emissions.

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority displayed a 40-foot electric bus Wednesday. Even though the bus was running, the loudest part of the presentation was the rain falling outside and cars speeding past.

At $750,000, the ProterraCatalyst could be the first electric bus in HART's fleet, but county officials say they are looking for a way to pay for the environmentally friendly alternative to diesel buses. 

"Well, we can't right now," HART Interim CEO Jeff Seward said. "What we can do though, is go after federal grant funding."

In April, the Federal Transit Administration announced it had more than $80 million to give out in the form of competitive grants. The funding will go towards bus programs with low or no emissions. 

"We would go after some of those funds," Seward said. "It's not enough for an entire fleet. We may be looking at three or four, maybe five buses, plus the necessary infrastructure to charge them, but this is something that we would want to see in a future investment."

After substituting some diesel-powered buses for compressed natural gas, a more environmentally friendly  fuel source than diesel, making the switch to electric-powered vehicles seems like the next step.

Seward says that HART is looking to minimize its carbon footprint and that these electric buses fit perfectly into its plans.

Last year, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and Tallahassee's StarMetro public transit services both received $1 million from the federal grant HART will try to earn this year. Both PSTA and StarMetro have electric buses in their fleets.

Sam Newlon interning as a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news reporter for spring 2018.
Andy Lalino serves WUSF Public Media as a journalist, video producer/editor, and graphic designer/animator. He’s authored pop-culture journalism articles, contributed weekly columns for Tampa Bay nostalgia websites, and published features for Fangoria magazine.
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