WASHINGTON — Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) announced that the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (METRO) would receive $3,810,348 from the Federal Transit Administration. The funding will be used to purchase three zero-emission electric buses to operate on the popular Highway 17 Express routes connecting Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley. The grant also includes funding for inductive charging stations.
“This grant could not have come at a better time,” remarked Santa Cruz METRO CEO Alex Clifford. “Our agency has been facing a fiscal crisis that has prevented us from replacing our aging bus fleet and last year the Board directed us to seek opportunities to add electric buses to our fleet in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Thanks to Congressman Farr’s efforts, we will use the federal assistance to address both of those challenges.”
“This funding is a win-win, spurring economic growth by connecting Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley while lowering our carbon footprint,” said Rep. Farr. “These types of investments often pay huge dividends in the future and I’m thrilled to work with the Federal Transportation Administration to support Santa Cruz METRO.”
“This award will bolster our efforts to meet two important goals – providing efficient transportation options to Santa Cruz County residents seeking high paying jobs in Silicon Valley and moving toward a zero-emissions bus fleet that will contribute to cleaner air in the Monterey Bay region,” said Santa Cruz METRO Board Chair Mike Rotkin. “We are deeply grateful to Congressman Farr for his effective advocacy on our behalf for so many years.”
There were $446 million in grant applications chasing only $55 million in grant money. METRO’s award was among the highest awards in the nation and the highest award in California. The grant announcement from the U.S. Department of Transportation said, “This project was competitively selected under the FY16 competition for the Low or No Emission Bus and Bus Facilities grant program.
Replacing traditional buses with electricity-powered buses that generate low or no emissions lessens reliance on fossil fuel, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves operating efficiency. The selected projects represent strategic investments to help reduce air pollution, train employees in maintaining new technology buses, and connect people to jobs and services through efficient bus transit networks. The grants allow agencies to acquire buses and supporting facilities and infrastructure such as maintenance facilities and recharging equipment – including new “en-route” charging that extends battery life.
“The Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (METRO) will receive funding to purchase (three) zero-emission battery-electric buses,” said Clifford, “and an inductive charging system to operate on METRO’s Highway 17 Express connecting Santa Cruz residents with jobs in the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. The buses are the first to help fulfill a local electric bus implementation strategy.”
In early June 2016, Caltrans announced a grant award of $709,292 to METRO to purchase a battery- electric (zero emissions) bus that will run as a new circulator service in downtown Watsonville. This project is funded through the State Cap and Trade Program — Low Carbon Transit Operations Program, which aims to curb climate change and emphasizes new and expanded services for disadvantaged communities.
METRO provides fixed-route and Highway 17 commuter service to Santa Cruz County, transporting about 5.5 million passenger trips a year. METRO also provides paratransit service to Santa Cruz County with its ParaCruz service, providing about 98,000 trips per year. METRO’s operating budget in FY17 is $47 million.