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Tampa Bay transit agencies secure $19.2 million for electric buses from Volkswagen settlement

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has set aside $68 million to purchase 227 electric buses in 13 counties, including Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas.
Officials from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, County Commission and city of St. Petersburg unveiled Pinellas' first-ever all-electric bus in front of St. Petersburg City Hall in 2018.
Officials from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, County Commission and city of St. Petersburg unveiled Pinellas' first-ever all-electric bus in front of St. Petersburg City Hall in 2018.
Published Aug. 30

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has earmarked more than $68 million to purchase 227 electric buses in 13 counties across the state — including three in the Tampa Bay area, Gov. DeSantis announced Monday.

Pinellas County’s public transit agency will receive $18 million in funding — the second largest amount given to any transit agency through the state’s Electric Transit Bus Project, after Miami-Dade’s Department of Transportation and Public Works.

Pasco County’s transportation agency and the University of South Florida’s Parking & Transportation Services in Hillsborough have both secured $600,000 to each buy two electric buses.

The public transit agency in Hillsborough County, commonly known by acronym HART, did not submit a proposal to the electric bus grant program, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. Agency spokesperson Frank Wyszynski could not be reached for comment as to why.

The funds for the program come from Florida’s $166 million share of Volkswagen’s $14.7 billion federal settlement over claims the company violated the Clean Air Act.

“This funding will help lower emissions while also bringing our transit bus fleets to more modern standards,” DeSantis said in a statement. “This is a win-win for air quality and advancing the state’s efforts to bolster growing electric vehicle usage.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused Volkswagen in 2015 of using illegal computer software to conceal poisonous emissions. The company faced lawsuits brought by consumers related to its sale of about 500,000 diesel vehicles equipped with “defeat devices” designed to cheat federal emissions tests.

In addition to compensating U.S. owners and investing in charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, the scandal also meant Volkswagen had to offer up $2.9 billion for a mitigation trust fund to help states put cleaner vehicles on their roads.

Florida’s Electric Transit Bus Project is the state’s latest measure to use its settlement allotment to electrify its transportation grid. The Department of Environmental Protection has previously awarded grants to install 150 electric vehicle charging stations along the state highway system and several grants to reduce emissions in and around Florida ports.

Beyond Tampa Bay, the funds will replace existing diesel buses in Alachua, Broward, Duval, Escambia, Leon, Marion, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange and Palm Beach counties’ public transportation systems.

“We are committed to clean energy, and electric buses also cost less to run and are easier to maintain. Within the next decade, we hope to eliminate all diesel buses from our fleet,” Brad Miller, chief executive officer of Pinellas’ public transit agency, said in a statement following the Department of Environmental Protection announcement.

Transportation agencies participating in the state’s electric transit bus program must purchase two electric buses for each diesel bus replaced.

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