MTA'S WHEELS ON THE BUS WILL NOT GO ROUND
New York State needs to increase its in state generation of electricity. The MTA Board recently met with New York Governor Kathy Hochul [RT1] where the urgency of strengthening access to affordable and reliable power for electric buses was raised.
A story by Jose Martinez at The City profiled the bigger issue at hand. Martinez explained that, “The MTA has ambitious plans that the entirety of the New York City bus fleet will be electric by the year 2040. This will require enough electricity to power 200,000 homes. While it is great to hear that New York wants to turn further towards clean energy, the ability for this plan to succeed will remain science fiction without real changes to the current New York State energy plan.”
He went on to discuss an Earth Day announcement where Governor Hochul and MTA Chairperson Janno Lieber confirmed that 60 new electric buses will be arriving before the end of 2022 and will be spread across the five boroughs.
Yet, the power the MTA uses is simply not enough to meet the demand it will need to keep the electric busses charged.
Martinez reports, “The MTA estimates that by 2025 these new ‘zero-emission’ buses will need about 370 additional megawatts of new power to fuel the hundreds of expected new buses. That’s well above its existing capacity of 30 megawatts.”
These energy challenges are also despite the previously existing infrastructure challenges that the MTA will face with this proposal. The depots for these new buses are barely able to withstand mid 20th century diesel buses, so how are they going to hold up against the 21st century technology of electric chargers?
The state transit agency, which presently owns just 15 electric buses that run along two routes, has pledged that all 5,800 coaches in its fleet will be zero emission in less than two decades.
MTA officials outlined the multiple hurdles to Governor Hochul in transforming existing vehicle depots across the city, building new ones and securing the power to keep electric buses on the go.
“It’s not like the challenges are going to stop once we get the buses,” said MTA Chairperson and CEO Janno Lieber. “There are 12,000 operators and 3,500 mechanics to train and we’ll need to install chargers and related infrastructure at all of our 28 bus depots.”
Curiously, the cost to upgrade depots was not discussed nor is it clear how much fares may increase to cover the new expenses. One thought leader estimated that, “To replace 100 percent of the fleet would cost more than $6 billion in 2020 dollars.”
This shocking multi-billion cost is before the MTA’s 29 garages must be upgraded for electric buses. If that was not enough, add soaring inflationary pressures and tight supply chain issues caused by COVID.
A practical solution for the MTA is diversify its fuel mix to include compressed natural gas or renewable natural gas from above ground sources. Putting carbon capture technologies to work could cut down on fugitive emissions from the waste stream as well as New York’s vibrant agricultural industry. More, it could create thousands of job opportunities for New Yorkers while reducing the cost of energy for New Yorkers who pay among the highest rates in the nation.
The long run solution is for New York is to generate more in-state electricity to meet growing demand. Using an “All of the Above Energy Strategy” is the prudent policy route for New York to pursue. Otherwise, the wheels on the MTA’s bus will not go round!