WHYYY PBS: SEPTA gets $23 million for adapting bus depots for electric and hybrid vehicles

More than $23 million in federal funds will be used to upgrade power at three SEPTA bus depots in Philadelphia. The money will pay for electrical upgrades and installation of backup generators that could charge electric buses if conventional power went out.

SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards said the federal investment will help the agency move towards its goal of reducing the mass transit agency’s emissions to zero.

“SEPTA is committed to converting to a zero emission bus fleet by 2040,” Richards said. “We are finalizing the next version of our zero emission vehicle master plan and this playbook will guide our efforts to putting clean, zero emission buses throughout the communities we serve.”

That zero emission future might not mean SEPTA moves to all electric buses. Richards said there could be a mix of vehicles put into future use.

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans said the federal funds will help reduce emissions, while also supporting workers. “Pennsylvania is the model that I believe we have for the whole nation, this is what we need to do to generate jobs and opportunities,” Evans said.

Richards said the investment will also help existing technicians upgrade their skills to convert from diesel maintenance to handling the new high-tech vehicles.

“We are currently evaluating available technologies to determine which type of zero emission vehicle is best for our unique operating environment,” Richards said. “We anticipate starting large-scale procurement of zero emission vehicles in 2026, and SEPTA will invest between $105 and $140 million every year between 2026 and 2034 to transition to a zero emission fleet as we have developed our zero emission vehicle master plan.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania traveled to the Allegheny Depot to help announce the funding.

“We’re here today to celebrate an investment, one of many investments, one of the best investments the federal government’s made in a long time in SEPTA, not only in the buses and the mechanics,” Casey said.

The funding is part of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Low-No Grant Program Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Program. It’s designed to help local governments transition to vehicles that are the lowest polluting and most energy efficient.