Monday, April 25, 2016

Hundreds of USF Tampa Students, Pinellas County residents demo all-electric buses, want them on streets

Student environmental leaders and faculty at USF ZEB demo:Lauren Jones, Dr. Chris Metzger, 
Hollyn Hartlep and Devanshi Tank, who drove Proterra's bus on a Bull Runner route. 
Hundreds of central Florida residents and college students got their first ride on a zero emission electric bus on Earth Day, experiencing firsthand what is rapidly becoming the cleanest, most-effective public transit vehicle.

Students and faculty at University of South Florida (USF), America’s 9th largest university, are working with Sierra Club’s Florida Health Air Campaign to make electric buses part of the school’s busy on-campus transit service that shuttles students around its huge Tampa campus and nearby locations. USF’s “Bull Runner” fleet of diesel buses is old and scheduled for replacement soon. 

USF students check out a bus
that has zero emissions. 
On April 20, USF’s Student Environmental Association and Environmental Policy Advocates hosted a packed presentation and demo ride around campus by Proterra, a U.S. electric bus manufacturer. Two student leaders, Lauren Jones of Environmental Policy Advocates, and Hollyn Hartlep of Student Environmental Association, talked about their initiative on WMNF's public affairs show, Radioactivity. The presentation at USF’s Center for Urban Transportation showed how electric buses cost about the same as a diesel hybrid bus that emits 3.5 times more carbon. Zero emission electric buses completely eliminate harmful diesel emissions while also saving up to $500,000 in fuel and maintenance costs over the life of a bus. Sounds like a great way for USF Tampa to help clean up the air in Hillsborough County, Florida’s smoggiest county. Sierra Club's FL Healthy Air Campaign staff was interviewed as Hillsborough County gets another "F" from the American Lung Association for too many smoggy days.

Proterra's Robert Aguirre discusses EV
technology with Jose Barriga, President
of Suncoast EV Association. 
Students are preparing a grant application for USF’s Student Green Energy Fund to supplement the cost of new electric buses. As USF is a global leader in sustainability and solar energy research, it isn’t hard to imagine a completely electric fleet of Bull Runner buses charged by solar energy on campus. Now that’s really going green!

Earlier that day, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) held its fifth zero emission bus demo on the sixth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. PSTA can now choose to reduce its own demand for the oil that still threatens its county’s $6 billion beach tourism industry by acquiring its first electric buses.
St. Pete leaders' 1st ride on an electric bus! St.
Petersburg City 
Council member Ed Montanari, Mayor
Rick Kriseman, Council 
member Darden Rice, FL St.
Rep Dwight Dudley, 
and Proterra's Michael Hennessy

After demos at PSTA and the Kennedy Space Center, Proterra returned to Tampa Bay for St. Pete Earth Day Saturday, April 23, where over 200 attendees took a clean, quiet ride around downtown. Key political decision makers were among those getting on board for their first electric bus ride, including St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, St. Petersburg City Council member and PSTA Chair Darden Rice, and Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch. Welch chairs the PSTA Planning Committee that will soon recommend this year's new replacement bus purchases to the entire PSTA board. 

Everyone at St. Pete Earth Day told Sierra Club that they loved the electric bus ride and wondered why PSTA doesn’t already have some of these? Those who live in the area can ask PSTA to buy their first electric buses this year by calling and writing any and all of the 15 board members who represent the entire county. The board will also take public comment at the beginning of their 9:00 am meeting this Wednesday morning, April 27, at 3201 Scherer Dr. N., St. Petersburg, FL 33716. Contact PSTA's Board of Directors.

Phil Compton, Senior Organizing Representative
Sierra Club's Florida Healthy Air Campaign
1990 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, FL 33712
727-824-8813, ext. 303  phil.compton@sierraclub.org