5 new electric buses will be coming to Dayton with $5.7M federal grant

A $5.7 million federal Department of Transportation grant will help the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority add five new “NexGen” buses to its fleet.

The award announced Friday assists RTA in fulfilling a plan to replace 20-year-old technology with newer, more efficient models expected to last another 20 years, according to officials.

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“I am very excited to receive the news that our NexGen Project was selected by the Federal Transit Administration for funding this year,” said Mark Donaghy, RTA CEO. “This flexibility will allow us to replace diesel routes with zero emission technology.”

Standing for “next generation,” NexGen buses operate by electric wire or on dual batteries that can take a fully loaded bus off wire at full speed another 15 miles.

The agency has tested four NexGen prototypes since 2014 and ordered 26 units that are expected to go into service in 2019. The transit agency has plans to order another 15, a spokesperson said earlier this year.

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This week’s award was made possible by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Buses and Bus Facilities competitive grant program, a transportation infrastructure bill signed into law in 2015. RTA is also contributing $1.4 million in local funding tied to the recent grant and plans to convert two routes from diesel back to electric operation when the NexGen units are delivered.

RTA also received a $2.3 million federal Department of Transportation grant earlier this year to help update the diesel bus fleet. But NexGen buses are both cheaper to operate and maintain, more efficient and expected to last longer, according the RTA.

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The lithium oxide batteries allow the new trolleys to detour around traffic or construction in ways older one’s can’t. The new buses will also allow RTA to expand traditional routes past the end of existing overhead wires, according to the RTA.

Electricity first started powering public transit in Dayton in 1888, with streetcars then the main mode of transportation. In the decades since, Dayton’s transit agencies have continued to operate electric trolley buses, and the city remains today only one of five in the nation to do so, according to the RTA.

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The transit authority utilizes 124 miles of electric overhead wire infrastructure to power seven trolley routes, which provide more than 2 million passenger trips a year. That number is expected grow as more NexGen buses go into service, according to the RTA.

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