Prince George’s County is making strides toward its goal of electrifying 70 percent of its bus fleet by 2035, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks shared in a community message Aug. 17.
Contributing to this progress is $25 million in grants the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Association awarded the Prince George’s County public works and transportation department for fiscal year 2022.
The two grants, the Buses and Bus Facilities grant and the Low- and No-Emission Vehicle Program grant, will help fund the county’s “Proud to Charge” Zero Emissions and Sustainable Transportation Program, an initiative to create more sustainable transportation in the county through investing in electric buses and charging stations.
Prince George’s County has also pledged a $6.25 million match that will go toward the “Proud to Charge” initiative, meaning the county’s public works and transportation department will have more than $31 million to spend.
“These awards will bring necessary change to our county by enhancing access to transit, improving county infrastructure, and supporting new workforce development opportunities for Prince Georgians,” Alsobrooks said in her community message.
The county’s grant application included a plan to purchase 20 new zero emission vehicles, expand electric bus charging infrastructure and implement a microgrid system to store energy, according to Semia Hackett, associate director of transportation for the public works and transportation department.
Hackett also shared the county’s public works and transportation department is looking forward to partnering with local nonprofits to bring workforce development to the community through training residents on how to operate and work on the new vehicles.
The “Proud to Charge” initiative kicked off in fiscal year 2019, when the county first received grant money for electric buses. Since 2019 and prior to the most recent grants, the county’s public works and transportation department has received grants for a total of 12 electric buses, plus another eight that will be delivered in June 2023.
The county’s public works department is also looking to install pantograph chargers — remote chargers that can be used while electric buses are in service — with previous grant money.
Hackett is confident that, with its newly received grants, the county is on track to meet, if not exceed, its goal of a 70 percent electric bus fleet by 2035. “We will continue to aggressively pursue additional grant funding,” she said.
Senior Nancy Barrett rides the bus every day and was glad when she learned of the grants Prince George’s County received.
“I am so personally excited that this will be an option for students,” the environmental science and policy major said. “It’s clean energy that we can rely on.”
Barrett hopes the county prioritizes equity when dispersing funds from the grant. They said there are certain parts of the county where public transportation is relied on more heavily. It would be great for Prince George’s County to focus on making affordable, sustainable and accessible transportation available in the communities that need it most, she added.
Marilyn Yang, a senior environmental science and policy major, is also pleased with the steps the county is taking but wants to see more changes happening.
“If we need to address this climate crisis, we need to do everything right now,” Yang said. “But I still think it’s a really good step.”
In addition to electric buses, the county’s public works and transportation department staff are looking at other types of lower emission vehicles, including propane buses. The department is currently piloting several of these in its bus fleet.
Hackett said the county’s public works and transportation department has several other ongoing projects aimed at increasing sustainability in Prince George’s County. The county is part of Capital Bikeshare, a bicycle sharing program in the DC-Maryland-Virginia region, and has bike racks on all of its buses to encourage residents to bike. They are also working on making roads safer for pedestrians and bikers.
Another major transportation initiative, the New Carrollton Multi-Modal Transportation Station was also recently announced. With federal funds, the New Carrollton Metro station will be renovated into a train hall where riders can connect to many forms of transit including Metro, Amtrak and MARC trains.