Photos courtesy of the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA)

The Ride of Their Lives — FTA Gives Transit Authority in Central Ohio $26.7 Million for Electric Buses

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Some people might wake up every day thinking of how long it will take them to get to work. Andy Biesterveld wakes up thinking about 3,100 transit stops (equaling more than 560 square miles) serving Central Ohio, and the ways in which moving people are addressing sustainability and environmental benchmarks.

Federal monies created through the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) are giving a huge boost in this vein.

Biesterveld is Chief Engineering and Mechanical Officer of the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA). COTA recently received from the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) a $26.7 million “low and no-emission” grant for 28 electric buses in an area that encompasses the Greater Columbus/Central Ohio region, with over 1.2 million residents taking more than 19 million trips annually.

He talks about the win in this new “ATM Podcast.”

Two electric coaches — which can run 140 miles on one charge — are already operating because of that grant. Eight more will soon be coming to Central Ohio, with more added in 2023 and 2024.

In 2021, COTA’s fleet changes included adding 18 eco-friendly hybrids or compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles; 27 fewer traditional fuel buses; adding electric buses and three more COTA/PLUS vehicles. (COTA bus customers can request microtransit service through a mobile phone app or call COTA Customer Service to book trips.)

Ultimately, Biesterveld notes that engineers, new technology, training technicians toward optimal safety, and building electric-vehicle infrastructure are crucial now. (Public transit took a hit because of COVID; however, improved and cleaner fleets can also serve changing and less sprawling communities.)

“If you think about a traditional diesel coach, if you’re sitting probably anywhere in the back half of the vehicle, you’re kind of overwhelmed by engine noise. In the electric coach, there is no engine noise,” says Biesterveld. “You definitely know that you’re not [in] a traditional fossil fuel powered vehicle.”


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