Pittsburgh Regional Transit Commits To A Zero-Emissions Fleet

The change, which will include electric buses and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, is expected to take more than two decades.


Pittsburgh Regional Transit is slowly going green. 

The region’s public transit agency recently announced its plans to transition to a zero-emissions bus fleet by 2045. Officials say this move will greatly improve the region’s overall air quality while continuing to provide riders with “reliable and efficient service.” 

Starting in 2025, PRT will begin purchasing more zero-emissions buses. By 2032, it will only purchase this type of vehicle.  The agency plans to deploy battery-operated electric buses in the initial years of its transition, but will continue to monitor advancements in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and other green technologies. The plan, the company adds, is to purchase “the newest, smartest technology as advancements develop in this rapidly evolving field.” 

The lengthy time frame for the change gives the agency time to install infrastructure, such as charging stations, and train employees on the operation and maintenance of these newer technologies.

“We recognize our responsibility to move as quickly as possible to replace our fleet with zero-emissions vehicles to improve the health, safety and welfare of the communities we serve,” said PRT CEO Katharine Kelleman in a statement. “This investment in our system touches upon so many of the values that will propel our region toward a more equitable and sustainable future.”

Most of PRT’s 730 buses currently run on diesel, although two battery-electric buses were introduced in 2020, followed by an additional six in 2021. There is also funding in PRT’s budget for an additional 15 battery-electric vehicles that are expected to operate on the future Downtown-Uptown-Oakland Bus Rapid Transit project.

While riding public transportation is better for the environment than driving in a personal vehicle — even if it’s a diesel-powered engine — PRT says the transition to a zero-emissions fleet will reduce its carbon footprint and limit greenhouse gas emissions.

“In Allegheny County, emissions from vehicles, like buses, contribute to air pollution and the quality of air we breathe,” explained Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen in a statement. “We anticipate that PRT replacing its current buses with a zero-emission fleet will have a positive effect on the area’s air quality and health.”

The transition will also include retrofitting each of PRT’s four bus garages and maintenance facility, as well as training its workforce of 1,400 bus operators and 800 mechanics on the new tech. The project is expected to cost $1 billion over the next 20 years. Electric buses cost about 60% more than their diesel counterparts, PRT said, with the average cost of a 40-foot electric bus at $950,000. Non-revenue vehicles, charging infrastructure and facility upgrades required to support a zero-emissions fleet will come at an additional cost, too. 

Federal funding is expected to be used to make up the difference in cost for vehicles, employee training and charging infrastructure.

Categories: The 412