electric-bus-side

Electric buses

We’re electrifying our entire bus fleet

Public transit is the greenest form of motorized transportation. We’re making it even greener with our commitment to electrifying the entire fleet by the year 2040.

600-Series all-electric buses

Our newest all-electric buses, the Proterra 600-Series, are running on the #66 Chicago and #63 63rd routes! We’ve monitored their successful performance and have authorized the production of additional electric buses, bringing us one step closer towards our goal of making Chicago one of the greenest cities in the world.

In May 2023, the #63 route, which serves riders from Woodlawn to Chrysler Village, became the second bus route to feature all-electric buses and is the first electric bus route out of the CTA’s 74th Street Garage, which is located in Chicago’s South Side. The CTA has prioritized equipping garages that serve neighborhoods with the highest air pollution levels, to best serve the communities in areas with disproportionately higher health vulnerability risks.

CTA currently has 25 electric buses in its fleet and three of its seven existing bus garages are now equipped with charging facilities for electric buses, with plans to purchase additional vehicles and expand to additional routes and garages in the coming years.

“Charging Forward” our roadmap to bus electrification

Following a multi-year analysis, we released our planning report that will serve as the first-ever roadmap for the full-electrification of our bus fleet, facilities and supporting infrastructure by the year 2040.

The study, “Charging Forward: CTA Bus Electrification Planning Report,” (appendix) summarizes the findings of key analyses and establishes a practical framework for us to advance towards full electrification—all while ensuring that equity, the environment and the communities we serve are at the forefront of this next big endeavor.

Among the strategic recommendations outlined in the study, are:

  • Which technologies to invest in;
  • Where to install charging infrastructure;
  • How to sequence the electrification of garages and routes;
  • How to ensure that the related facility upgrades are coordinated with other modernization needs to maximize cost effectiveness and overall system reliability; and
  • Outlining an achievable transition timeline for meeting the agency’s 2040 conversion goal.

With the completion of this study, we are now well-positioned to compete for funding, advocate for policies, and drive technology advances that will be essential to implement this plan.

Conversion of one of the nation’s largest transit bus systems—with nearly 1,900 buses over 120 routes, and seven bus garages—is a huge undertaking. Purchasing the buses is only one part of the equation.

Meeting our 2040 conversion goal will require time and resources. The following are some of the areas we’re addressing as we work towards this goal:

Key milestones for "Charging Forward"

For nearly the last decade, we’ve been at the forefront of bus electrification.

In 2014, we became the first large transit agency in the U.S. to put electric buses into revenue service, across all four seasons. After rigorous testing of this early-stage technology, we made one of the U.S. transit industry’s first commitments to converting to an all-electric bus fleet.

In 2018, we made what was then one of the largest purchases of electric buses of any U.S. transit agency.

In April 2019, the Chicago City Council passed a resolution committing to electrify our entire bus fleet by the year 2040. And in April 2021, we began in-service testing with passengers of the next generation of electric buses.

In February 2022, we unveiled “Charging Forward: CTA Bus Electrification Planning Report,” the first-ever roadmap for the full-electrification of our bus fleet, facilities and supporting infrastructure by the year 2040.

In August 2022, we received nearly $29 million in grant funds by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to be used towards the purchase of fully accessible, all-electric buses, as well as bus facility communication and safety improvements to accommodate the new vehicles. The grant marked the first major federal funding we've received since unveiling our “Charging Forward Plan”.

What others are saying about "Charging Forward"

We’re excited to see one of our regional partners set a bold vision for cleaner air and a more resilient future in northeastern Illinois. The CTA has been a national leader in deploying electric vehicle technology and plans to prioritize efforts in historically disinvested communities to support our regional goals. This is a critical undertaking toward a transportation system that serves everyone better.

Erin Aleman, Executive Director
Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning

I applaud the use of equity measures to sequence the implementation. This recognizes the reality of the past two years that essential workers have continued to ride transit. Economically disadvantaged areas of Chicago are being prioritized and will be the earliest to benefit from positive air quality impacts. The report clearly identifies the challenges to full fleet electrification, the need for building out charging infrastructure, as well as the need for additional funding.

Jacky Grimshaw, Vice President, Government Affairs
Center for Neighborhood Technology

We are excited to see CTA take a big step today in advancing our shared goal to electrify bus fleets serving city residents. CTA’s contributions toward increasing transit ridership and making equitable investments in green mobility will play a big role in meeting our Climate Action Plan 2030 goals.

Angela Tovar, Chief Sustainability Officer
City of Chicago

We applaud CTA for being intentional about investing in environmentally beneficial technology that will make Chicago’s air healthier and improve the service experience for its riders. “We are proud to have supported this research and planning effort as CTA moves toward electrifying its bus fleet, including putting the agency in a strong position to tap federal infrastructure funds to support the transition.

Ed Miller, Environment Program Director
Joyce Foundation

 

FAQ

Why is it taking so long to convert to an all-electric fleet?

Converting to an all-electric fleet is more than just purchasing buses, we also need the charging infrastructure to support day-to-day operations. And with a fleet of nearly 1,900 buses, this is a complex process that requires planning, coordination, construction and additional funding. Following a multi-year analysis, our new “Charging Forward” report helps layout the roadmap of what needs to be done and when, to help ensure we meet our 2040 goal.

Why is CTA purchasing diesel buses?

It’s important to know that diesel buses were always part of our fleet conversion plans. Currently, 64% of the buses in our fleet are at the end of their useful life, which is 12-14 years old. Without this recent diesel bus purchase, we would have to cut service and/or rely on a severely aged diesel fleet that is less reliable and emits higher levels of harmful emissions. The diesel buses purchased in 2021 will be retired before the 2040 electrification goal date.

Is CTA avoiding purchasing eBuses due to their higher purchase price?

No. The purchase price of eBuses is not the primary barrier to immediate, large-scale deployment. We are aware of the significant operating savings potential from electric buses, and we hope to realize these savings as we continue to scale up our electric fleet. We need time and resources to help plan, design and coordinate with ComEd the installation of new power and charging infrastructure at our facilities and at key locations along select routes where we can construct rapid charging stations for buses serving our longer routes. 

Why continue operating diesel buses that only contribute to Chicago’s health-impacting air pollution?

Our buses are responsible for a very small portion of vehicle emissions and overall emissions throughout the City of Chicago.  Even on corridors with the most frequent bus routes, buses typically constitute less than 2% of all vehicles.

In September of 2021 there were around 465,000 bus rides per weekday. If you assume a third of those trips could have been made by foot, bike, or not made at all, that’s still more than 200,000 car trips per day kept off the roads by operation of CTA transit.

Buses purchased in 2021 will be more fuel efficient and meet latest EPA emissions guidance, emitting 22% less CO2; 64% less NOx; and 91% less PM2.5 (particulate matter) on a per-mile basis compared to the older buses they will replace.

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