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Milwaukee County DOT presents ‘generational opportunity’ to switch to electric MCTS bus fleet

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee County Department of Transportation presented a report Wednesday, showing that a planned transition to the use of battery electric buses (BEBs) for the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) could save the county $27 million.

The project, proposed by County Board of Supervisors Chairman Theodore Lipscomb, Sr., could also dramatically reduce harmful emissions by 2040 if it proceeds at an aggressive pace.

“This is a generational opportunity. We’re going to modernize our bus system,” Lipscomb said. “The sooner we get started, the sooner we’ll have a modern fleet.”

The report recommends that nine electric buses could be used daily on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route — a planned nine-mile, regional, route connecting major employment, education and recreation destinations. The BRT is scheduled to begin service in 2021. The report also recommends six additional electric bases be used for existing MCTS routes.

Theodore Lipscomb, Sr.

Annual cost savings are projected at $1.7 million annually between 2025 and 2040, or $27 million total, if the county invests $10 million a year in converting to a fully electric bus fleet. An electric MCTS fleet would reduce harmful emissions of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, the report found, leading to better local air quality and a reduction in negative health effects associated with diesel exhaust.

Lipscomb proposed the BEB conversion and necessary infrastructure changes in the 2019 and 2020 Milwaukee County budgets. Lipscomb said that no BEBs were purchased for 2020.

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