SEPTA Gets $80 Million From Biden Administration to Modernize Fleet and Transition to Zero-Emission Buses

A Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority bus (SEPTA) is driven on Market Street in view of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

By Sean Kitchen

June 26, 2023

On Monday, the federal government announced that SEPTA will receive $80 million from Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to modernize maintenance facilities and help the transit authority to transition to a zero-emission bus fleet. This is in addition to the $25 million for SEPTA that was announced on Friday to improve trolley services in Southwest Philadelphia.  

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), which serves the Philadelphia metropolitan area, will receive $80 million from the federal government to help the agency transition to a zero emission fleet, the Federal Transit Administration announced Monday. 

The funding comes from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the grants are part of the Federal Transit Authority’s Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities and Low and No Emission programs.

The government issued 130 awards on Monday totaling almost $1.7 billion from the infrastructure law, formally known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The funds will be spread out among 46 states. 

According to the Federal Transit Administration, the funding will help SEPTA make improvements at six bus maintenance facilities, which house two-thirds of the transit system’s buses. It will also upgrade power systems, modernize electrical infrastructure and install safety systems.

“SEPTA is a key part of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s transportation network. This has been especially true in the aftermath of the I-95 collapse. Upgrading our facilities and transitioning to low to no-emission American-made buses is critical as more and more Pennsylvanians rely on SEPTA for their transit needs,” Democratic Sen. John Fetterman said in a statement. “This funding is a BIG investment that will allow us to continue the modernization of our public transit infrastructure, combat climate change, and make more stuff in America.” 

SEPTA previously received $23.3 million in grants from the federal government to invest in zero-emission buses in August of last year, and at the time, the agency announced they are committed to converting their fleet to zero emission buses by 2040. To make that happen, the agency plans on investing between $105 to $140 million from 2026 to 2034.

“SEPTA is committed to transitioning to a fully zero-emission bus fleet,” SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie S. Richards said. “This Low No Grant funding will allow SEPTA to make the depot power infrastructure upgrades necessary to operate the new fleet.   

Clean-energy buses reduce greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change and cause extreme weather, and also reduce health risks among children and the surrounding communities, according to the World Resources Institute, a global research nonprofit organization.

Nationwide, the new funding will invest in more than 1,700 American made buses that will be manufactured with American parts and labor, and nearly half of the buses will be zero-emission buses. 

On Friday, Fetterman and Senator Bob Casey also announced that SEPTA received $25 million from the Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Grant, which is also funded through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The funding will help SEPTA modernize and improve the agency’s trolley services, which will benefit Southwest Philadelphia.    

While ridership on SEPTA’s buses, trolleys, and subways declined during the pandemic and still remains well-below pre-pandemic levels, the number of passenger rides and revenue have begun to rise this year, according to the most recent data from SEPTA.

Fetterman and Casey hope this new round of funding will also help improve SEPTA’s prospects moving forward.

“Because of the infrastructure law, the City of Philadelphia will be safer and more accessible for children, pedestrians, public transit users, and drivers,” Casey said.

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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