The public transportation system operated by Charlottesville has commissioned a consultant-led study to determine what fuel should be used in the future to help the city meet its goals to be fossil-free by 2050.
The firm Kimley Horn last gave an update to City Council in July and a final report with recommendations had been expected sometime this fall. However, City Manager Sam Sanders said that is now being delayed until January 16. (view the July presentation to Council)
“So the goal would be for there to be sufficient time for that information to be made public so others could take a look at it and of course for Council to have some time with it because it will lead to some big decisions,” Sanders said. “As we’ve been discussing, any transformation of the fleet of the size that we have is going to be very expensive and we need to ensure we take the appropriate steps as we think through that in the best way that we can.”
Sanders said the city is also trying to schedule a site visit to Montgomery County, Maryland for Council and others to tour a transit system that is making the transition to electric buses through a public-private partnership.
“[Montgomery] County has an aggressive goal to transition its fleet, including buses and maintenance vehicles, to zero carbon emissions by 2035,” reads an October 31, 2022 press release announcing the completion of charging infrastructure.
For comparison, Montgomery County has a population of over million people and is embedded within the combined statistical area of Baltimore-Washington-Arlington which has a 2021 population estimate of nearly ten million.
Charlottesville’s metropolitan population is estimated at 223,534 according to the 2021 American Community Survey.
Sanders said more details will be revealed about that upcoming trip.
Several people spoke to encourage Council to make their decision now to proceed immediately to deploy vehicles with electric batteries before the report is finished.
“The pollution that diesel buses emit has been linked to heart and lung problems as well as premature death,” said Maria Düster, the climate justice policy manager for the Climate Community Collaborative.
First-year engineering student at the University of Virginia Lucas Schatz had a specific proposal in mind.
“I propose that the City of Charlottesville maintain 36 diesel buses while simultaneously revamping its fleet with 22 new battery electric expansion buses complete with fast en-route charging over the next five years,” Schatz said.
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