Blue Water Transit boosts eco-friendly efforts by adding electric buses

New electric buses will give passengers a smoother, quieter ride.
Some say it's not easy being green, but when it comes to offering fuel-efficient, eco-friendly buses, the
Blue Water Transit System is doing its part.


It already boasts the state's largest fleet of buses operating on compressed natural gas, and recently received a $1.5 million federal grant that will bring two new electric vehicles to the fleet.


Soon,every bus leaving the transit center will be low- or no-emission.


Blue Water Area Transportation has been serving St. Clair County for more than 40 years."Adding two electric buses to our fleet of compressed natural gas (CNG) buses will expand our efforts to provide eco-friendly service," says Jim Wilson, BWAT general manager. "It has been an important priority for more several decades."


The federal Low- or No-Emission Grant program has given $1.5 million of the $84.45 million grant to the Blue Water Area Transit (BWAT) for bus replacements and infrastructure updates.


Two Catalyst battery-electric buses will join its fleet, replacing two older vehicles. There are 78 buses in the fleet, which serve all 721 miles of St. Clair County.


"This grant allows us to continue to improve the air quality in St. Clair County and serve our community in a safe and efficient manner," says Dave Frasier, director of Procurement for Blue Water Transit.


In addition to the electric buses, the groundwork for two new charging stations will also be developed.


One of the charging stations will be located inside the bus garage on Lapeer, and the other will be an "in route" 500kw charger, located at the Downtown Transit Bus Center. The charger can bring the battery of the bus back to 50 percent from 30 percent, with an eight-minute charge.


"We are excited to continue being at the forefront of transit technology and reducing emissions. It's great to see funding come Lee-Perry Bellou says there are many advantages to riding buses.through to purchase two buses, plus the necessary infrastructure upgrades for recharging the buses," says Frasier.


The blue and white buses see an average of 2,000 riders daily.


"At Blue Water Transit we like to say ‘Ride Blue Go Green,'" says Lee-Perry Belleau, Community and Labor Relations manager for BWAT.

BWAT's fleet already runs on compressed natural gas, an alternative fuel that releases ultra-low emissions.


And while the CNG buses are ultra-low emission, the electric buses are zero-emission and will be more efficient. Riders will notice they are also much quieter than the rest of the fleet.

BWAT started producing CNG in 1996, and has now become Michigan's largest producer of CNG, with the most CNG buses in the state.


There are four public CNG fueling stations in St. Clair County, including at BWAT headquarters on Lapeer, a station on Hancock Street, Marine City, and Capac.


Blue Water Area Transit offers a variety of buses in its fleet."It's gratifying to see such widespread momentum and enthusiasm for zero-emission transportation and battery-electric fleets," said Ryan Popple, Proterra CEO. "We commend these transit agencies for their efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption and build a cleaner, healthier future together."


Belleau agrees.


"Public transit saves money, saves fuel, and saves the environment. Riders save on gas, vehicle payments and insurance, oil changes and maintenance. It reduces the number of cars on the road--decreasing traffic congestion, the amount of gas used to fuel them and the pollution they pour into the environment."