July 24, 2019

Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins Announce, Following Their Push, $2.5 Million In Federal DOT Funding To The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority For New Electric Buses, Infrastructure

Funding Will Be Used To Purchase Cleaner, Modern And More Environmentally-Friendly Electric Buses And The Necessary Support Infrastructure; Schumer, Gillibrand & Higgins Wrote To Transportation Secretary Chao In May Touting NFTA Request

Washington, DC – U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Brian Higgins today announced $2.5 million in federal funding for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), which operates in Erie and Niagara Counties. The funding was provided through the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Low or No Emission Grant Program (Low-No) and will be used to purchase between 8 and 10 modern, cleaner electric buses, as well as the necessary charging infrastructure. Schumer, Gillibrand and Higgins wrote to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in May to support NFTA’s application for grant funding.

Transit service is a lifeline for many Western New York residents, and this new vital funding will allow the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to purchase brand spanking new, efficient, non-polluting electric buses to provide riders with a safe and efficient ride and help the environment all at the same time,” said Senator Schumer. “I fought to deliver this funding because investment in transportation infrastructure is critical for residents and businesses. I will continue to secure funding for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and other Upstate transit agencies to reduce dirty, fossil fuels and to modernize their fleets so commuters can have a safer, faster and cleaner ride.”

This federal funding is a major investment for communities in Erie and Niagara counties that rely on bus transportation for their commute. With this investment, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority will be able to move from using diesel-fueled buses that pollute the region’s air quality to new, electric busses that offer zero and low emissions. The funding will also allow NFTA to purchase the necessary charging stations to ensure the electric bus fleet can be maintained,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Bus transit is a vital form of transportation for many people in Western New York, and I was proud to fight for this funding.”

This community has a long history of being a leader in the utilization of clean energy to improve the economic and environmental health of our region,” said Congressman Higgins. “This significant federal grant to the NFTA allows for important upgrades to Western New York’s public transportation network and delivers a cleaner environment for passengers, employees and local residents.”

We are very appreciative to have the support of our congressional delegation on this funding, which will result in new NFTA-Metro battery electric buses, reduced emissions from our fleet, and an improved quality of life in our region,” said Kimberley Minkel, Executive Director of the NFTA.

The representatives explained that currently, almost one-third of the NFTA bus fleet are beyond their useful life in terms of both age and mileage, and over 40 buses are out of service each month for repairs. Due to these challenges, the NFTA has been forced to dedicate all federal formula funding to preventive maintenance activities. This has put a strain on the NFTA’s overall capital budget and has led to a significant backlog of deferred capital projects across the organization, including the purchase of new buses. The representatives said with this funding from the DOT, the NFTA will finally be able to modernize their bus fleet and its complementary infrastructure.

Schumer led efforts to pass the FAST Act, the first long-term highway and transportation funding bill in over a decade, which provided over $16 billion in direct infrastructure spending to New York – a significant increase over previous formulas. The $55 million Low or No Emission Grant Program was authorized and funded through the FAST Act, as well. Schumer ensured that an additional $30 million was provided for the Low or No Emission Grant Program in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, for a total of $85 million to the clean energy vehicle program.

The DOT’s Low-No Program awards capital investment grants for the acquisition of low- or zero-emission buses. This program finances the acquisition of buses, ancillary equipment, and the construction of bus facilities, like maintenance facilities, garages, storage areas and bus terminals. The funding appropriated for the bus capital program is fully allocated to projects designated by Congress.

The full text of Senator Schumer’s letter is available below:

Hon. Elaine L. Chao, Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Secretary Chao:

I am pleased to write in support of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s (NFTA) application for funding under the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) 2019 Low or No Emission Grant Program (LoNo). Such funding will permit infrastructure upgrades to the Cold Spring Bus Maintenance Facility, giving the opportunity to charge electric buses as they are introduced into the NFTA’s fleet.

The NFTA initiates programs to protect the environment and the health and safety of its employees, customers, and the communities they serve. This funding will be instrumental on the implementation of electric buses, causing a reduction of harmful emissions within Western New York. It will reduce air pollution, improve health, reduce health care costs, reduce maintenance costs, and improve the overall quality of life in this region.

The ability of our transportation system to provide for and maintain the efficient movement of people is vital to the continuing economic health of the region and nation. Considering the NFTA is the primary provider of public transportation services within Western New York, the investment of a technologically advanced charging system will ensure the buses are efficiently charged, maintaining a robust transit system within this region. The investment in the Cold Spring Bus Maintenance Facility is a necessary step to power the next-generation electric bus fleet. Between the NFTA and New York State, $10.5 million has already been designated for this project, showing the dedication to this mission.

Thank you for your consideration. I hope their application meets with your approval. Should you have any questions, please contact me or a member of my staff at ______.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator

The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter is available below:

The Honorable Elaine Chao
Secretary
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary Chao,

I write in in support of the application submitted by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) for funding from the Low or No Emission Grant Program through the Federal Transit Administration. The funding will be used to purchase electric busses for transit use in the county.

The NFTA is a multimodal entity that is comprised of a skilled and dedicated workforce of over 1,500 men and women that serve the Buffalo Niagara region. The NFTA oversees multiple subsidiaries, which includes the NFTA Metro bus and rail system. The various vehicle modes that NFTA utilizes are diesel bus, diesel-hybrid bus, compressed natural gas bus, light rail, and cut-away van.

The requested funding will be used to assist NFTA with their commitment of providing efficient and professional transportation services that enhance the quality of life in the Buffalo Niagara region. This grant will allow for the purchase of busses that will expand NFTA’s fleet by offering a new, clean vehicle mode that offers zero and low emissions. The funding will help support another aspect of NFTA’s mission by offering cost-effective, quality transportation services every day.

I ask that you please give this application your full consideration. If you have any questions, or desire further information, please do not hesitate to contact my staff member, Dominic Sanchez, at (202) 224-4451.

The full text of Representative Higgins’ letter is available below:

The Honorable Elaine Chao
Secretary
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary Chao:

I am pleased to express my strong support for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s (NFTA) application for funding through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) 2019 Low or No Emission Grant Program (LoNo). This funding will upgrade infrastructure at the NFTA’s Cold Spring Bus Maintenance Facility to charge electric vehicles as they begin to be introduced into the Metro Bus fleet.

As the region’s primary provider of public transportation services, the NFTA initiates programs and policies that protect the environment and the health and safety of its employees, customers, and the communities they serve. In keeping with this mission, the NFTA has made it an organizational priority to replace life-expired diesel-fueled buses with modern zero-emission battery-powered electric buses. In order to so, the NFTA must secure funding to retrofit the Cold Spring Bus Maintenance Facility with the charging stations, control panels, and electric equipment needed to power this next-generation electric bus fleet. The NFTA and New York State have committed $10.5 million in local and other federal funds to this project or 81 percent of the estimated total project cost of $13 million.

This funding will allow the NFTA to reduce the harmful emissions of its bus fleet and invest in a technologically-advanced overhead pantograph charging system that will efficiently charge battery-powered electric buses. The ability of our public transportation system to provide for and maintain the efficient movement of people is vital and I have every confidence in NFTA’s ability to implement a successful grant award and work to ensure it reduces maintenance costs, lowers health care costs and contributes to improving the overall quality of life.

Our economy, state, and nation continue to benefit from the technological breakthrough that made our region the first to have widespread electric lighting powered by 100 percent renewable hydroelectric power from Niagara Falls. The introduction of zero-emission battery-powered electric buses into the NFTA fleet with support from the FTA’s LoNo Program would demonstrate the federal government’s role in and recognition of Western new York’s tradition as a national leader in clean energy and improve the environmental and economic health of our region.

Thank you for your review and careful consideration of this most worthy application.

Sincerely,

Brian Higgins
Member of Congress