Teton County and the town of Jackson had set its sights on a low-emission transit system for the county.
The Southern Teton Area Rapid Transit (START) system, a joint operation between Jackson and Teton County, bought eight electric buses to complement its fleet of 31.
But none of the electric buses are running, and so the town’s transit system is relying on its diesel fleet. [emphasis, links added]
Last month, the electric bus manufacturer that supplied START, California-based Proterra, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
START Director Bruce Abel told Cowboy State Daily that the agency still isn’t sure when those parts will come or when its electric fleet will be running again.
“We’re evaluating our options to see how we can work through that and make sure that they can be on the road,” Abel said.
The company plans to continue operating while the bankruptcy case proceeds, and it’s promised to deliver buses that are on order.
Whether that includes filling parts orders is anyone’s guess.
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Jackson Councilman Jimbo Rooks told Cowboy State Daily the bankruptcy was a “real punch in the gut.”
Prior to the bad news from Proterra, Rooks said the transit system was well-positioned to run clean vehicles charged with wind power and hydroelectric.
“While it’s a very upsetting scenario, we need to learn some lessons, problem solve, and move forward to improve regional mobility for our residents and visitors alike,” Rooks said.
Not Very Practical
Paul Vogelheim, a Jackson resident who previously served on the Teton County Commission, told Cowboy State Daily that 15 years ago, he and other residents of the area wanted to improve the county road system to make traffic flow smoothly across the Snake River.
Then, the idea of electric buses became some “noise” along the way, he said, and the road improvements they wanted never materialized.
He said it was difficult to move forward with road projects in a community with a strong voice of “not in my backyard.”
He said it would have been better to get out of the way and let the Wyoming Department of Transportation do its job while influencing projects with the values of the community.
Instead, a majority wanted driving to remain inconvenient in hopes that people would ride more bikes and take public transit, Vogelheim said, adding, “That’s not very practical.”
He said with a good supply of natural gas available, the transit system should have looked into natural gas vehicles.
“We missed the boat there with our electric bus purchases, and obviously a bad choice of vendor,” Vogelheim said. …snip…
There are more electric buses heading to Teton County as START works to phase out as much of its diesel fleet as it can.
According to the News & Guide, the eight buses in its fleet cost $2.3 million, 80% of which was covered by a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant in 2019.
Between 2020 and 2021, similar grants provided another $2.6 million, and START plans to spend $3.3 million for four more electric buses.
This time another company other than Proterra will be filling the order, and delivery is years away.
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