Graham Kilmer

MCTS Adds 73 New Clean-Diesel Buses To Fleet

MCTS working to replace more than 200 aging buses by 2024.

By - Aug 19th, 2022 12:27 pm

New Gillig Clean-Diesel Bus. Photo Courtesy of MCTS.

The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) recently added 73 new clean diesel buses to its fleet.

The new buses will replace approximately 22% of the transit system’s fleet, much of which is reaching the end of its useful life.

In 2021, transit officials told the county board that the system would need to replace more than  230 buses by 2024. Much of the fleet was purchased more than a decade ago with federal funding from the 2009 American Relief and Recovery Act, a stimulus bill passed in response to the 2008 financial crash.

The useful life of a bus is typically 15 years, and “Our system puts a lot of miles, a lot of wear and tear on our buses,” said Donna Brown-Martin, director of the Milwaukee County Department of Transportation (MCDOT).

The new buses are all clean-diesel buses. In June 2021, the Milwaukee County Board approved a change to the county’s bus replacement policy prioritizing clean-diesel over diesel-hybrid and battery electric buses (BEBs).

The 73 new buses have made the entire MCTS fleet, 334 buses, all clean-diesel, according to the transit system. These bus systems have a “filter designed to remove particulate matter or soot from diesel emissions,” according to MCTS

The buses are Gillig 6100 and 6200 series, manufactured in California. They come with “improved fuel economy, lower emissions, optimized driver visibility, anti-slip flooring, easier-to-read digital display signs, and a stainless-steel understructure designed to reduce salt corrosion,” according to MCTS.

As Urban Milwaukee reported the last time a batch of Gilligs came in, the buses come with turn signals on the side mirrors to better help pedestrians and other drivers know what the buses are doing in traffic. The side mirrors on these new buses also come with heaters to melt snow and ice during the winter.

Improved fuel economy and lower emissions are a big deal for a bus system that drove more than 17 million miles in 2021.

“Often, air quality is worse in communities of color which have historically been underserved when it comes to environmental protections,” Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said in a statement, noting research showing that Black residents in Wisconsin are exposed to approximately 41% more particulate pollution than the average resident.

“By replacing aging buses with new, more efficient ones we’ll improve air quality on our neighborhood blocks for all our residents,” he said.

The buses were purchased with a combination of approximately $29.3 million in federal funds, courtesy of federal formula grants, and approximately $9.5 million in county funding.

The majority of the federal funds were appropriated by congress and allocated to Milwaukee County through two Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant programs: Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Grant and Urbanized Area Formula Grant. An additional $3.5 million was awarded through a Surface Transportation Block Grant, which MCDOT applied for in 2017.

“This is the work of our regional FTA office, Congresswoman Gwen Moore and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) in supporting Milwaukee County’s applications for funding,” said Denise Wandke, interim managing director of MCTS.

“I led efforts to secure federal funds for these buses and am so proud to see this work bear fruit for Milwaukee, resulting in new, cleaner buses that will help reduce air pollution in our communities while providing more reliable service,” Moore said in a statement.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin said in a statement, “Replacing aging buses paves the way to a cleaner community and serves the people of Milwaukee County with reliable service, lower costs and a better environment.”

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us