The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has made $1.5 billion available in funding to support American transit vehicle manufacturing – including zero-emission buses – help build bus facilities and promote workforce development. The funding comes from the Low- or No-Emission Program and the Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program, which will help transit agencies replace aging buses, reduce air pollution, provide good-paying jobs and improve the reliability of transit systems.
“More funding for buses means less traffic congestion on the road, less pollution in the air and more jobs for American workers,” said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Thanks to the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are bringing thousands of new, clean buses to communities large and small across the country.”
FTA’s Low- or No-Emission Program helps transit agencies buy or lease U.S.-built zero-emission and low-emission transit buses along with charging equipment and supporting facilities. FTA’s Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program supports transit agencies in buying and rehabilitating buses and vans and building bus facilities. In Fiscal Year 2024, $1.1 billion will be authorized for the Low-No Program and $390 million for grants for buses and bus facilities.
FTA is also focused on strengthening U.S. bus manufacturing, which can stabilize the cost of new buses and accelerate delivery of new vehicles. FTA notes more standardized bus models will shorten manufacturing timelines and recommends transit agencies competing for funds to consider strategies to avoid customization.
“Buying new buses, including many vehicles that use new technology to cut carbon pollution, will promote cleaner, faster and safer rides as we move toward a better future,” said FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez. “FTA is also providing solutions to reduce bus costs, shorten production timelines and maintain domestic manufacturing capacity as transit agencies procure buses.”
On Feb. 7, FTA leaders joined government and industry leaders at a White House Roundtable on Clean Bus Manufacturing to highlight the nation’s progress in transitioning to zero-emission buses and discuss strategies to address challenges facing the U.S. bus manufacturing industry as it strives to meet the growing demand. Leaders highlighted solutions to ensure U.S. capacity to manufacture and deliver clean buses at a scale and pace needed to meet market demands and achieve national climate and equity goals.
Among the solutions discussed at the roundtable was the use of advance payments, which allows a contractor to receive payments prior to costs being incurred, or progress payments, which allows a contractor to receive payments prior to work being completed. These two tools are applicable to zero-emission procurements as the initial capital outlay required of bus manufacturers is much higher than for combustion engine vehicles. The Notice of Funding Opportunity for the two grant programs includes new provisions that will give priority consideration to applications proposing the use of advance or progress payments, as well as additional solutions outlined in FTA’s Dear Colleague letter such as joint procurements or procurement of base model buses.
The bus funding represents the third bus grant package since President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which has invested more than $3.3 billion in American transit buses and the infrastructure that supports them. During the next three years, record funding for American transit investment will provide almost $5 billion more for bus programs.
As part of FTA’s commitment to build a diverse and skilled public transportation workforce and help upskill workers for new bus technologies, five percent of each grant for zero-emission projects is set aside for workforce development and training. FTA encourages workforce development plans to be developed in partnership with workforce representatives and the use of registered apprenticeships.
The funding opportunity also gives priority consideration to projects that advance environmental justice under the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative and to projects that will catalyze a broader shift toward low- and zero-emission options across the transit sector. FTA is also streamlining application requirements for Tribal governments.
In 2023, FTA revealed the second round of selections for the grant programs. The selections invested in more than 1,700 American-built buses that will be manufactured with U.S. parts and labor. Nearly half of these buses will be zero-emission models, bringing the total number of zero-emission transit buses funded by the IIJA during the past two years to more than 1,800 – and more than doubling the number of zero-emission transit buses on America’s roadways. Selections included:
- The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) was awarded $104 million to convert its Lorton, Va., bus garage to a fully electric facility, buy battery-electric buses (BEBs) and develop a workforce training program for drivers, mechanics and first responders to ensure safe and efficient operations of the fleet. This project will support WMATA’s plans to accelerate its transition to a 100-percent zero-emission bus fleet and create good paying construction jobs, which will be supported through a project labor agreement and registered apprenticeships.
- King County Metro Transit in Seattle, Wash., was awarded $33.5 million to buy BEBs and charging equipment and train workers to maintain the electric fleet. The project will convert 27 bus routes that serve low-income areas and expand King County Metro’s apprenticeship program, including promoting transit careers for residents in underserved communities.
- The Ohio Department of Transportation was awarded $29.3 million to help 10 transit agencies serving both rural and urban communities buy dozens of low- or no-emission buses that will replace older vehicles. The agencies will expand their fleets to support essential services, train workers in good-quality careers and begin the decarbonization transition for several of Ohio’s major transit systems. The new battery electric, compressed natural gas and propane powered buses supported by the grants will provide better reliability, improve air quality and lower maintenance costs across the state.
- The White Earth Reservation Business Committee was awarded $723,171 to buy low-emission buses with electronic farebox systems to replace older vehicles. The new buses will enable the agency to reduce fuel costs while continuing to provide much-needed bus service in rural communities on the reservation in northwest Minnesota.
Instructions for applying and eligibility information can be found on FTA’s website. Complete proposals must be submitted electronically by April 25, 2024.