The University of Maryland Department of Transportation Services is celebrating a nearly $40 million grant from the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration to start electrifying its bus fleet.

There has been institutional and student support for this university to convert Shuttle-UM to electric buses for several years, according to DOTS Assistant Director for Strategy and Business Intelligence Valerie Goubeau. The grant was announced this past June.

The funds will be used to purchase 35 electric buses, pay employees and build bus charging stations and other infrastructure. It’s estimated the buses could be operational as early as summer 2026.

DOTS has been working for more than three years to research and find support for the switch to electric buses, Goubeau said. Last spring, Goubeau began the process of writing the grant and compiled research and community support.

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“There was a lot of effort to create energy behind us moving forward with the purchase of electric vehicles but ultimately for this specific grant opportunity, the Student Government Association primarily supported in an advisory capacity and also by providing support that we included with the proposal,” Goubeau said.

The project has vast support from the student population.

“The best part is that it’s not coming from university resources, but it’s helping contribute to the university’s sustainability goals,” president of Terps for Bike Lanes Nicholas Marks said.

Members of 17 for Peace and Justice — an environmental justice student organization — believe it’s important that this university is mindful of sustainability while converting to electric buses.

Solana Page, the organization’s co-president, said sustainable transportation increases reliability of public transportation and helps reduce pollution in lower-income communities that rely on transit.

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Marilyn Yang, the other co-president, brought up the point that transitioning to electric buses is only helpful if the old buses aren’t then being sold and used elsewhere, Page said.

“It’s also important to know where that electricity is being generated from and if it’s from renewable sources,” Page said.

The program is predicted to reduce the energy use of the university’s bus fleet by 99.7 percent and greenhouse gas emissions from the bus fleet by 78 percent, the grant proposal said.

The grant will help the university achieve its goals of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025 and having an all-electric vehicle fleet by 2035, according to University President Darryll Pines

“This grant award helps fulfill a key presidential priority announced during Inauguration Week in April 2021 — advancing our Climate Action Plan goal to become a Net Zero Carbon Neutral campus by 2025 by accelerating our transition from diesel to electric buses,” Pines told Maryland Today.