Over the last several years, the City of Lancaster has been vigorously pursuing the sustainability goal of achieving Zero Net Energy status as one of the nation’s leading cities in the alternative energy arena. The Antelope Valley Transit Authority’s (AVTA) recent announcement regarding an additional $6.84 million in funding has boosted local enthusiasm, as AVTA has now bridged its halfway mark toward becoming the nation’s first all-electric, zero-emission transit fleet.

Although more expensive to purchase at the outset, the related fuel and energy savings over the life of an electric bus versus its diesel hybrid counterpart will result in a net zero cost, or breaking even, within seven years. To begin, the initial cost of an electric bus is approximately $200,000 higher than the cost of the same size diesel hybrid bus. While the current annual fuel costs for AVTA’s diesel fleet is $2.7 million, the projected ongoing cost of energy to power the same size electric fleet will be $330,750, which results in an annual savings of more than $2.3 million in fuel alone.

“Once again, the City of Lancaster and one of its ‘green’ partner agencies are making strides where many have doubted our drive and agenda toward reaching zero net energy as a community,” said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris. “The benefits for supporting and pursuing sustainability avenues for our City are evident, not only from a longevity standpoint, but from a cost-savings outlook, as well. With nearly 500,000 residents in the Antelope Valley region, the utilization of an all-electric, zero-emission fleet will have a tremendous impact on our local environment; and, hopefully, a great influence on the ambitions of other cities to strive for more energy-conscious endeavors in their communities.”

This latest funding, received from the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), is the third iteration of financial support towards the AVTA’s all-electric efforts. Having partnered with the Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District (AVAQMD), along with SunLine Transit, Thousand Palms, and Kern Regional Transit – Bakersfield, AVTA was party to the winning project totaling $13.7 million, for which grant funds of $8.93 million were awarded. The $6.84 million garnered specifically for AVTA will fund the addition of ten more 40-foot, zero-emission local transit buses, bringing the agency’s total electric fleet to 41, halfway toward its goal of 82 electric buses.

The ten new buses will service heavily trafficked routes, cutting wait times in half for those traveling to schools, veterans and senior centers, as well as the Metrolink. As a further boost to the local economy, AVTA will procure the additional buses from the Lancaster-based manufacturing facility of Build Your Dreams (BYD), the premier international producer of electric buses and energy storage batteries.

Three years ago, AVTA’s efforts to build an all-electric transit fleet were kicked off with an initial $1.9 million investment. Last year, an award of $24.4 million from CalSTA went toward the purchase of 29 electric buses, which should be received and employed along AVTA Route 1 by December of this year. AVTA Board Chairman Marvin Crist has been pleased with the ongoing funding support received from CalSTA, noting that key decision makers from the State of California are demonstrating confidence in the future of transportation in the Antelope Valley.

In addition to expanding its electric bus fleet, AVTA is also allocating some of the recent award funds for the development of a zero-emission vanpool program within the agency’s service area. The program will provide ten vanpool vehicles for use by residents who commute to jobs throughout the Antelope Valley, as well as the Los Angeles Basin.

AVTA Executive Director Len Engel says that the possibilities for a more productive vanpool program are numerous. “We envision utilizing the vanpool vehicles in ways beyond the traditional work-commute model,” stated Engel. “A public car-share program during non-commuting hours and an alternative to employer fleet vehicles are just some of the ideas that we are excited to demonstrate.”

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About the City of Lancaster

The City of Lancaster is a thriving community of nearly 160,000 in northern Los Angeles County. Leading the charge against climate change, Lancaster’s mission is to become the Alternative Energy Capital of the World and achieve Net Zero status – producing or procuring more energy within City limits, via renewable sources, than is consumed within City limits. Lancaster also boasts more than 300 days of sunshine per year, making it the ideal place to pioneer new solar energy technologies. In addition, clean air, attainable housing, wide open spaces, and a close-knit community make Lancaster an ideal place for businesses and families alike. No matter how you look at it, it’s positively clear that Lancaster is the perfect place to live, work and play.

About the Antelope Valley Transit Authority

The Antelope Valley Transit Authority provides local, commuter and dial-a-ride service to a population of more than 450,000 residents in the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, as well as the unincorporated portions of northern Los Angeles County. Its total service area covers 1,200 square miles and it is bounded by the Kern County line to the north, the San Bernardino County line to the east, the Angeles National Forest to the south, and Interstate 5 to the West.