Federal Grant Will Pay to Replace Nearly 75% of Shuttle-UM Bus Fleet
Illustration by DOTS
The University of Maryland will receive nearly $40 million in grant funding to fast-track plans to convert its bus fleet from diesel to electric vehicles, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced yesterday. Funds will be used to purchase 35 battery electric buses, bus charging stations and associated infrastructure as well as to train drivers and maintenance staff to operate and service electric buses.
The funds were awarded through the FTA's FY23 Low-No Program, which will provide nearly $1.7 billion for transit projects in 46 states and territories. UMD's grant was the largest given to a university in this award cycle and one of the largest of the 130 grants awarded nationwide.
The $39.9 million award will enable UMD to accelerate the transition of its Shuttle-UM fleet, which currently includes 48 buses that provide transportation to campus and around greater College Park. The award propels UMD forward on its path to achieve ambitious climate action goals, which include converting all university vehicles to electric by 2035. Electric buses may be in operation as early as summer 2026.
"I am elated by this award and deeply grateful to our friends in Congress and partners in the community and across the state who helped make it possible,” said UMD President Darryll J. Pines. “Thanks to this grant, we will be able to move more quickly on our plans to provide our community with a more reliable, sustainable and eco-friendly mode of transportation. I am incredibly proud of our institution and how it continues to prioritize environmental responsibility and innovative solutions."
Replacing diesel-engine buses with electric ones will cut energy use drastically—up to 99.7% when the whole fleet is replaced—according to an analysis by the UMD-based Build America Center that was submitted with the grant application. The center, established last year in the university’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation, also found that most Shuttle-UM riders from historically disadvantaged communities would benefit from the switchover.
The application received robust support from the Maryland congressional delegation and local government officials in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, as well as from student groups on campus. Swift implementation of this project will ensure continued service reliability, improve air quality and advance environmental justice in the greater College Park community.
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