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'Live more, drive less': 40 electric buses already on Miami-Dade roads, with plans for entire fleet

The interior of one of Miami-Dade County's new 75 electric buses.
The interior of one of Miami-Dade County's new 75 electric buses.

Miami-Dade will soon have 75 electric buses on the roads — at least 40 of them are already in service system-wide.

"We're investing in what fuels the future, which is clean energy like this," said Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, as officials unveiled one of the 40-foot battery-powered buses in downtown last week. "These buses emit no environment-polluting exhaust."

Officials hope residents will try a new way to commute that will help relieve traffic congestion. Improvements to public transit infrastructure also helps the county qualify for future federal and state funding.

"Also important about this is attracting new ridership to our program," County Commissioner Keon Hardemon said. "There’s no stigma attached to our public transit."

For many, it's less about stigma as it is the distance to a bus stop by foot and some of the wait times. But the county is planning for more routes, increasing bus frequency and more drivers.

"We're fast tracking our work to build key transit corridors that will connect every neighborhood in our county to take more cars off the road," said Levine Cava, who was still a commissioner when the county began the purchase of these buses. "We want you to live more and drive less."

The county has already received 63 of the buses. Eventually, the entire fleet will be electric.

The new buses take four hours to charge, have an operating range of 175 miles and should have public wifi inside for passengers as well as some outlets to charge devices. They are also in the process of upgrading bus shelters.

They're also hiring — new bus operators who keep their job for 18 months receive a $5,000 bonus.

Funding for the electric buses comes from a mix of private, federal, state and county dollars — including the PTP, a half-penny sales surtax approved in 2002.

Money also comes from Florida's share of a settlement between Volkswagen and the U.S. Department of Justice over emissions violations.

The director of Miami-Dade County's Transportation and Public Works, Eulois Cleckley, said fourth graders from county elementary public schools named 13 of the buses, representing the 13 districts. "Their winning bus name will be installed inside of our electric buses," he said, adding that the names will be revealed soon.

Verónica Zaragovia was born in Cali, Colombia, and grew up in South Florida. She’s been a lifelong WLRN listener and is proud to cover health care, as well as Surfside and Miami Beach politics for the station. Contact Verónica at vzaragovia@wlrnnews.org
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