UPDATE: Racine is set to get 2 additional new electric buses for a total of 8! Racine is leading the pack in investing in electric buses. The second round of Wisconsin’s Volkswagen Mitigation Program Transit Capital Assistance Grants were announced on September 9, 2020. This round, totaling $18 million, was awarded to Beloit, Wausau, Sheboygan, Madison, Eau Claire, Racine, Green Bay, and La Crosse. The funding will allow those cities to purchase a combined 34 transit buses.
Racine is again the only city that has opted for electric buses, getting funding for 2 more electric buses and the infrastructure to re-charge them. With this additional funding, Racine will be able to purchase 8 all-electric transit buses with Volkswagen Mitigation Program funding.
Between the first and second rounds of the Transit Capital Assistance grants, the Volkswagen Settlement Program has spent $50 million to bolster the State’s public transit systems. The total funding available to Wisconsin through the Volkswagen Settlement is $67.2 million, which leaves about $17 million yet to be awarded.
Published December 14, 2018
Racine is set to get 6 new electric buses!
The RENEW Wisconsin Volkswagen Settlement Blog reviews the Volkswagen Settlement and how Wisconsin allocated two-thirds of our settlement funding. A large portion of the funding is going to the Transit Capital Assistance Program for cities and counties to replace aging diesel buses.
Transit Capital Assistance Grant Recipients
The grant recipients have been announced! $32 million of settlement funding is set to replace a total of 58 polluting diesel buses in 9 cities and 1 county.
At least 6 of those buses will be electric, all in Racine. Appleton, Eau Caire, Green Bay, Janesville, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee County, Sheboygan, and Wausau are also award recipients.
Per the award announcement, Racine is set to receive $6.2 million for the 6 buses and overnight charging stations. Racine also wanted to install a fast charger toward the end of the route out to the “Wisconn Valley.” The awards aren’t yet final, giving parties time to negotiate grant terms.
Racine’s Electric Buses
Racine’s application states, “the new buses will attract commuters by providing a quiet, high tech experience commensurate with the new economic opportunities and technologies in the service area.” Of course, by “new economic opportunities and technologies,” they are referring to Foxconn. Which makes sense – a key aspect of the competitive grant program was to connect employees to employers. Foxconn voiced their support by signing on to Racine’s application.
It will likely be more than a year before the new buses are operating. Once they are in operation, the new electric buses will replace the oldest, most polluting, diesel buses in Racine’s fleet.
Benefits of Electric Buses
No matter where they operate, electric buses are a win for all stakeholders.
- There’s no diesel smell and no loud engine. Electric buses are more comfortable to ride in!
- Electric buses are cheaper to operate. Lower fuel costs and less maintenance means extremely reduced costs to operate.
- Fewer emissions mean a cleaner community for everyone. Whether you are a bus rider or not, everyone will benefit from the reduced emissions from switching to electric buses.
- Clean, electric buses can be powered by renewable energy. We can create the energy to run our transit right here in Wisconsin instead of sending billions of dollars out of state for fossil fuels.
I’m excited to see more electric buses being added to transit fleets in Wisconsin. They truly are a win for all transportation stakeholders – the riders, owners, and community at large.
This morning, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that three of Governor Evers’ budget vetoes are unconstitutional. Included in the three budget vetoes was the allocation of $10 million of Volkswagen Settlement Funding for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. RENEW has been working with partners and the Department of Administration to determine the most effective use of this $10 million since the state budget passed last July.
We are extremely disappointed with this setback. We had hoped to see this money spent over the next year to build a comprehensive network of charging infrastructure that would allow Wisconsinites to easily and confidently drive anywhere in the state with an electric vehicle.
There is a silver lining: Volkswagen Settlement Funds are strictly allocated based on a federal settlement that stipulates this funding must be spent to reduce diesel and gasoline emissions. RENEW will continue to fight to ensure this money is reallocated to electric vehicle charging infrastructure, as we believe this is the best way to support the transition to a clean, homegrown transportation system.
For more information, see RENEW Wisconsin’s previous blogs about Volkswagen Settlement Funding:
July 3, 2019 • Governor Evers Signs Budget Designating VW Money to Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
May 31, 2019 • Electric Charging Station Funding Takes Another Ste
March 6, 2019 • Volkswagen Settlement Update
October 22, 2018 • The “Volkswagen Settlement” – A Big Opportunity for Electric Vehicles
In April, I wrote about how the pandemic has changed our energy use, resulting in cleaner air. With increased adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles, we can achieve clean air, a prospering economy, and improved public health.
The latest “State of the Air” report, analyzing air quality between 2016 and 2018, shows that air quality isn’t improving. Now, faced with a public health crisis, we must focus our efforts on protecting our communities from the impacts of poor air quality.
Evidence our air quality is getting worse
According to the American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” report, almost 50% of Americans lived in communities that had unhealthy air pollution levels in 2016-2018. Particle pollution and days of high ozone are also on the rise. This is the fourth consecutive annual report that shows air quality is getting worse, threatening the health of our communities.
On a brighter note, the Appleton–Oshkosh–Neenah area was ranked as one of the cleanest cities in the Nation for its year-round air quality and for having zero days of unhealthy particle pollution. La Crosse also got a shout-out for having zero days of unhealthy ozone or particulate levels.
But we still have work to do. Sheboygan and the Milwaukee–Racine–Waukesha region tied for #24 on the ‘highest levels of ozone pollution’ list. These residents should not be subject to unsafe air quality.
Air quality impacts public health
Wisconsin doctors attest to the linkage between air pollution and poor health outcomes. Luckily, clean energy technologies exist today that can help improve air quality.
“When you replace coal with solar it cleans the air and makes people healthier, today. When you replace a gas car with an electric it makes people healthier, today” noted Joel Charles MD, MPH at Vernon Memorial Healthcare.
More than ever, the world is keenly focused on health, and doctors and scientists around the world are learning more every day about the novel coronavirus.
“One of the most important learnings coming from the COVID-19 pandemic is that rapid changes in air quality can have immediate and substantive benefits in terms of reduced cardiorespiratory morbidity and mortality,” said Bruce Barrett MD Ph.D., Professor & Vice Chair for Research, Family Medicine and Community Health at University of Wisconsin – Madison. “In more than two decades of work as a family physician, I have been continually impressed with the importance of environmental quality, especially the protective attributes of clean air.”
“Air pollution is a silent killer. It never makes it onto the death certificate, but, among other things, it worsens heart disease, asthma, COPD, kidney disease, immune function, and harms childhood brain development,” confirmed Andrew Lewandowski, DO, Pediatrician at GHC-SCW.
And, these impacts are not shared evenly. Lower-income and nonwhite communities often face higher exposure to pollution and unsafe air quality. Dr. Lewandoski added that “Improving air quality disproportionately benefits children, elderly, people with chronic medical conditions, people of color, and economically disadvantaged populations.”
We can learn from public health experts and take action to reduce harmful emissions by adopting renewable energy and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. People from both sides of the political aisle agree on many clean energy issues, such as maintaining current fuel efficiency standards and prioritizing renewable energy.
“Air pollution harms all people, independent of political affiliation. Regardless of how you vote, let your legislator know that you support cleaning our air because you value your health” Dr. Lewandowski said.
We have an opportunity right now to lock in the benefits of clean, healthy air. Cleaner air benefits all of Wisconsin and makes our state a better place to live, work, and play.