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Electric reveal: Pace’s first-ever e-bus is ready for its closeup

Pace board chair Rick Kwasneski, Congressional rep Sean Casten, Pace board member Tom Marcucci, Pace executive director Melinda Metzger, Metra board member Wes Becton, Metra CEO James Derwinski, and Metra board member Stephen Palmer. Photo: Pace

This piece incorporates earlier reporting by Igor Studenkov.

It bears repeating that a well-used city bus powered by fossil fuel is still doing its part to fight air pollution and climate change by eliminating lots of car trips. All the same, the current shift from diesel buses to electric vehicles is generally a good thing, since it will further reduce emissions in population centers.

Chicagoland reached a small milestone in that department on Wednesday as Pace heralded the purchase of its first all-electric bus. Last August the suburban transit agency's board approved the purchase of the single e-bus, which Pace had leased earlier in the year, and the agency finally signed the check last week.

The vehicle is a 40’ Gillig low-floor battery-electric bus, which Pace rented so that employees could get experience operating and maintaining this kind of vehicle. The agency will continue testing the bus this winter to see how it performs in inclement weather, and hopefully deploy it for regular service within a few months.

Like the CTA’s “Charging Forward” bus electrification plan, Pace’s strategic vision plan, “Driving Innovation,” includes a relatively modest goal of an all-electric fleet by 2040.

Electric buses are somewhat hard to come by nowadays, so Pace says is trying to acquire them by any means possible. Last March the board agreed to piggyback on the state of Georgia’s electric bus purchasing contract with Proterra Inc., allowing Pace to deliver 20 electric buses to its North Division, which includes routes that serve Waukegan. Those buses are slated to arrive next year, and the North Division is supposed to be fully electric by 2026.

Last Monday Pace officials were joined by their Metra counterparts and U.S. Congressional rep Sean Casten (IL-6) at the Metra BNSF Line's Westmont Station to for a test ride ride of the newly-purchased e-bus.

"Pace’s battery-electric bus is a great step towards cleaner transit systems and green innovation," Casten said in a statement. "Their goal to transition to a zero-emission fleet by 2040 will not only fight the climate crisis, but will create long-term savings and cleaner air across Illinois."

"Congressman Casten has been supportive of everything we are doing to bring 'Driving Innovation' to life," stated Pace director Tom Marcucci, "He is as interested in green technology and innovation as we are.”

According to Pace, Casten also sponsored a grant for electric paratransit vehicles that was included in the House Appropriations Bill for FY2023.

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