Graham Kilmer

New Electric BRT Line Will Launch With Some Diesel Buses

New service will still launch June 4, but will be short four electric buses.

By - Feb 24th, 2023 07:51 pm
MCTS Battery Electric Bus. Photo Courtesy of MCTS.

MCTS Battery Electric Bus. Photo Courtesy of MCTS.

The new East-West Bus Rapid Transit line will begin service June 4, but without some of its battery electric buses (BEBs).

Four of the 11 BEBs ordered for the BRT will arrive after the start date, according to the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS). Supply chain issues continue to be the culprit, David Locher, MCTS manager of enhanced transit, told Milwaukee County Supervisors in an email, but they will all be delivered by the end of July.

The BEBs are being manufactured by Nova Bus, a Canadian company owned by the Volvo Group. The buses, called the Nova LFSe+, can run 247 miles on a single charge. They are powered by a traction motor and powertrain produced by BAE Systems. MCTS has estimated that the 11 BEBs running on the BRT line will reduce the transit system’s fuel use by 67,000 gallons of diesel annually.

“MCTS and Nova have been working to accelerate that timeline, and due to parts acquirement outside of Nova’s control, the delay is a reality,” Locher said.

The BRT line is being branded as the “MCTS Connect” including bus wraps designed for the BEBs. The wraps, for example, say “Clean Energy. Clean Air.”

MCTS will use four of its existing clean-diesel buses until the new BEBs arrives. The move will allow MCTS to maintain the planned start date and comply with a $41 million Federal Transit Administration grant agreement. The diesel buses will also be wrapped with the new “Connect” branding and can be rotated back onto regular bus routes as the new BEBs arrive.

The branding will be “Uniquely BRT but also uniquely Clean-Diesel,” Locher said.

On top of the 11 electric buses for the BRT line, MCTS has also ordered four additional BEBs that will be used along the traditional fixed bus routes in the system. They will be considered a pilot program ahead of potential further fleet electrification.

The East-West BRT line is a nine-mile bus line running between downtown Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa. It will employ new transit technology, dedicated bus lanes, traffic signal priority and off-bus fare collection to provide a quicker, more efficient bus service.

Planning for the complex project began in 2016. The complex project experienced delays during the planning stage as it sought financing through the federal government and again during development due to international supply chain issues and the COVID-19 pandemic. The project was initially supposed to launch in 2021.

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