MISSOULA – Three new zero-emission battery electric buses will arrive at the University of Montana thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration. The Associated Students of UM’s UDASH transit system was awarded the competitive grant through the FTA’s Low and No Emission Bus Program.
In 2016, the student-run transit agency bought two electric buses, making UM the first university in the country to operate fast-charging battery-electric buses. This new grant allows ASUM to purchase three more of the zero-emission vehicles while phasing out diesel buses. ASUM expects to order buses this fall and receive them sometime in 2020.
“This is great news for the University of Montana,” said Mariah Welch, ASUM vice president. “These buses will reduce harmful emissions in and around the university. Our innovative student-run transit system was an early adopter of electric bus technology, and we were competitive in this grant application because of the entrepreneurial spirit of our student government.”
Over the past 18 months of operating its existing electric buses, ASUM has noted numerous benefits to the quiet, clean vehicles. Operational costs are significantly lower, noise and emissions from diesel buses are eliminated, and students are excited about the new technology.
“When we launched our first two battery electric buses, it became obvious that we wanted more,” said Jordan Hess, director of ASUM’s Office of Transportation. “We’re saving money, improving our airshed and providing a great rider experience.”
The new electric buses will allow ASUM to replace several diesel buses that have exceeded their useful life, while empowering ASUM to continue providing innovative transportation options to UM students and visitors. Nearly 400,000 passengers use UDASH each year, and more than 15 percent of UM students ride transit to campus. UDASH is also free and open the public.
“Public transportation benefits the University by reducing traffic congestion and demand for parking,” Hess said. “Transportation is a system, and everybody benefits when our students choose transit. We’re grateful to the entire congressional delegation, UM President Seth Bodnar and Gov. Steve Bullock for their support in this grant application.”