News & Opinion » News

RTS adding electric buses to its fleet


The half-rumbling, half-whirring grind of a diesel bus is unmistakable. For a lot of Rochesterians, it’s the sound of public transit.

But the next era of RTS buses could be much quieter and cleaner. The transit agency plans to begin a process for buying five electric buses in the late summer or early fall, says spokesperson Tom Brede. RTS received a $5 million award from the state in April to help pay for the vehicles, which would could be in service by the end of 2019 and would replace diesel buses.

RTS will also have to install charging stations to serve the buses.

RTS has 219 full-size buses that serve Monroe County, all of which are diesel-powered. The five electric buses will replace five vehicles from that fleet, Brede says.

The state Sierra Club’s Electric Vehicle Initiative is applauding RTS for the commitment, which it says puts Rochester in the lead on electric buses in New York, topping even New York City’s transit system.

The Sierra Club has been organizing events to show off electric buses in Upstate cities, including Buffalo, where the regional transit agency has been investing in compressed natural gas buses and fueling stations.

The Sierra Club recently held four days of events in Rochester, including a public information session and a demonstration at the Public Market, where people had a chance to ride one of the vehicles. It also held sessions for government officials and key RTS staffers to examine an electric bus.

A fact sheet from the Sierra Club says electric buses are far cheaper to operate and maintain than diesel buses, and they generate far less air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.