GA: Macon transit buses will go all-electric by 2030. What will it do for the city?

June 18, 2024
So far, Macon Transit Authority has four electric fixed-route buses in service, and it is slowly integrating six electric Paratransit buses and four electric Microtransit buses into its fleet.

Jun. 17—Alfred, one of Macon Transit Authority's diesel buses, may soon meet his doom.

The Macon Transit Authority is working to achieve a fully electric bus fleet by 2030. The fleet is part of MTA's goal to significantly reduce its carbon footprint while improving efficiency in routing scheduling, and rider safety. So far, MTA has four electric fixed-route buses in service, and it is slowly integrating six electric ParaTransit buses and four electric MicroTransit buses into its fleet.

"Switching to electric buses is a big deal for cutting down on emissions and cleaning up the air in Macon-Bibb," said Transit Planner Mark Strozier.

How will Electric Buses affect Macon's air?

Diesel buses emit particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and other pollutants from tailpipes. This negatively affects Macon's air quality, and can cause health effects, especially for those with higher exposure levels.

Effects for short-term exposure to high concentrations include asthma attacks and headaches, according to state climatologist Bill Murphey.

Electric buses don't release tailpipe emissions, which a spokesperson for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division said could have an immediate local effect.

"Communities near areas where buses congregate would no longer be exposed to the pollution they were with diesel and gasoline buses, especially when replacing an old fleet," said the spokesperson.

There are still several other pollutants that affect Macon's air quality. Murphey pointed to controlled burns, wildfires and traffic as sources of air pollution, and if the conditions are exactly right, air pollutants from Atlanta can even travel down Interstate 75 to Macon, Murphey said.

What will electric buses cost for Macon?

Electric buses are expensive. In 2020, an electric bus was approximately $250,000 more expensive than a comparable diesel bus, said Strozier. Additionally, the cost of electricity to charge an electric bus is comparable to the cost of diesel consumed on a diesel bus.

However, MTA's first electric buses, Sparky and Bolt, were a result of a $1.75 million federal grant, and Macon-Bibb County pitched in $1.2 million for the chargers.

"While there's an initial investment in the buses and charging infrastructure, we're not putting it all on taxpayers," said Strozier.

Plus, the buses cost less to run and maintain over time, said Strozier. They have fewer breakdowns and delays, and provide a more pleasant ride for transit users.

"It's a smoother, quiet experience," said Strozier. "You won't hear that diesel engine rumble."

In addition to going electric, Strozier said the company is also working on improving bus routes and reviewing their 1,200 bus stops to determine which stops are still in use, and which can be removed. They have already made some route changes downtown.

Strozier said he's happy to be making a positive change for Macon-Bibb.

"It's fulfilling to be even a small part of a hopeful future. I feel like I'm making a difference for our riders, our community, and the environment. Sure, there are challenges, but all in all, MTA is working to effect a positive change for Macon-Bibb and this is why I love my job," said Strozier.

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