MRTA prepares for 2021 arrival of its first electric buses

Aug. 12, 2020
The Idaho transit provider plans to electrify a portion of its fleet and is working with POWER Engineers on engineer services and design of the project.

Transit users in Idaho’s Wood River Valley can expect to board Mountain Rides Transportation Authority’s (MRTA) new electric buses by July 2021.  

The 35-foot electric buses and supporting charging infrastructure are part of MRTA’s plans to electrify a portion of its bus fleet to cut overall emissions as it retires aging diesel buses. Wally Morgus, executive director of MRTA, estimates approximately 1,100 tons of CO2 emissions will be eliminated from the valley’s skies annually once the project is complete. A result he explains the authority is proud to deliver.

“Against the backdrop of global climate change, as well as the commitment in our pristine alpine valley to sustainability, resilience and environmental preservation, Mountain Rides is fully committed to instituting a 100 percent zero-emissions vehicle fleet,” said Morgus.

MRTA will begin with four, 35-foot battery-electric Xcelsior Charge buses from New Flyer of America. The buses will be charged in-depot using ABB-manufactured 480-vold, dual-port charging stations. The buses will be charged at MRTA’s Ketchum and Bellevue depots and the authority notes new service transformers and other infrastructure to support the chargers will also be installed.

MRTA plans to eventually house 10 electric buses and seven chargers at the Bellevue depot and eight buses and six chargers in Ketchum.

MRTA hired POWER Engineers, Inc., to provide engineer services and design the new chargers and transformers. The consulting firm will work with project stakeholders including electric utility Idaho Power, New Flyer, the electrical installation contractor, local inspectors and others to ensure that the electrical needs of MRTA are met and the project proceeds smoothly.

“This project represents the future of fleet transportation. We are excited to be working alongside MRTA to bring electric buses to the area. We also live and work in the valley, so it’s a win-win for us,” said Jason Marenda, POWER project manager.

In June, the Idaho Department of Transportation, on behalf of MRTA, was awarded a $2.45-million Federal Transit Administration grant through the Fiscal Year 2020 Low or No-Emission Bus Program. The federal grant, along with Volkswagen Mitigation Fund grant awards administered locally by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, will fund the project.

MRTA plans to convert its entire fleet of diesel buses to battery-electric buses by 2027.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.