BATTERY Electric Bus Project


1. How much money was awarded to Ketchikan Gateway Borough for this project?

$4,285,436 has been awarded for the FY2022 FTA Bus and Low- and No-Emission Grant Awards. These awards were announced on Tuesday, August 16th, 2022. You can read the press release here-

2. What is the source of this funding?

This funding is from the Federal Transit Administration’s 5339(c) program. FTA’s FY22 Low- and No-Emission and Bus and Bus Facilities programs will provide $1.66 billion in grants to transit agencies, territories and states across the country to invest in bus fleets and facilities. Funded by the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the majority of funded projects will use zero-emissions technology, which reduces air pollution and helps meet the President’s goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Additional match funding may be provided by sources such CPV. 

 3. What was funded?

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Transit Department has been awarded $4.2 million for three electric buses and the associated charging infrastructure and facility upgrades, workforce development including training and tooling, and professional services including design, engineering, inspection, permitting, procurement, and route analysis. The project will be designed to reduce harmful emissions, promote locally sourced hydroelectric power, and improve operating efficiency of the transit system.

4. In the past KPU has requested that the community conserve energy, can KPU handle the additional electric need for these buses? 

KPU requested that the community conserve power in a drought situation a few years ago due to permitting restrictions on the diesel generators. This drought situation was an exception and in an average year KPU has adequate ability to service the low level of electric demand of battery electric buses. The conservation of power was not due to capacity but rather to keep the diesel surcharge low for the consumer.

5. With KPU using diesel backup generators will this really save the Transit Department and in turn the community any money?

Ketchikan on average has the least expensive electric rates in the state even when considering years that diesel generators have been utilized. In fact, on average Ketchikan’s energy rates are in the bottom 10% in the nation. KPU and the Borough expect that cost savings will be realized immediately and continue over the life of the project. 

However, with all that said, there is still a long way to go in analysis, design and engineering prior to any purchases being made, and time to consider how alternative energy buses might be deployed in Ketchikan. 

6. Why is the Borough looking at moving to electric buses?

The community of Ketchikan is particularly well-positioned for the addition of electric buses with our limited road system, short commute distances, low cost/publicly owned hydroelectric utility source, and a community interested in continuing to promote the area as an environmentally pristine visitor destination. Initial analysis suggests that our downtown shuttle route and green line are especially well-suited.

This grant will allow the Borough funding for analysis, design and engineering prior to any purchases being made, and time to consider how alternative energy buses might be deployed in Ketchikan. 

7. We have heard that Juneau's electric bus project has had a lot of issues, what makes this project different?

There are several reasons Ketchikan feels better prepared for these buses and the relationship and assistance from our partners at Capital Transit in Juneau is one of them. Many of the issues that Juneau has faced on their electric bus have not been related to the bus being battery powered at all, but rather due to manufacturer defects unrelated to the electric bus technology. Things like heater/defrost issues, fender wells not properly shaped and being sent a 40' bus instead of a 35' bus which restricted the routes that this bus is able to run are a few examples. 

Ketchikan has partnered for this project with Gillig, the same manufacturer that the Borough has worked with since 1998. All Ketchikan Borough Transit buses are 35’ Gillig buses. This will mean that 80% of the parts on the electric buses are interchangeable across our fleet.  

8. Does this really cost over a million dollars per bus?

Yes, the proposed budget included a base price per bus of roughly $800,000 dollars with additional configurations and options to match our current fleet bringing the total to roughly one million dollars per bus. This number will likely change once final specifications are completed. The additional million dollars is budgeted for workforce development, staff training and design/engineering/construction of electric facility upgrades and charging stations. Funding is also budgeted for data analysis and feasibility over the first five years of service. This analysis will ensure that not only the buses and charging infrastructure are performing to specifications but also to inform the Borough on decisions relating to future battery electric or alternative energy investments.  

9. Are we planning to use these buses all year long?

Yes, we plan to use them all year. Ketchikan’s moderate temperatures and terrain are expected to allow Transit to utilize them all year long on the in-town routes (apart from very icy days as with all our buses). Route analysis will be completed to determine how these buses will operate on Silver Line and if any adjustments to service may need to be made to ensure the success on our longer routes.

Please note that the majority of our fleet will still be diesel-powered for the foreseeable future. The 35’ buses that the Borough has traditionally procured (and currently has in service) have a federally required useful life of at least 12 years or 500,000 miles, though we generally keep them much longer. 

10. Are there any plans in the works to decorate the new buses?

Yes, we love the painted buses too! Transit does have plans to paint more buses with local art and is looking at different funding sources to do so . The department plans do as many as we can fund. We have repowered the two painted buses to get the most life out of them. Before we let them go we are looking at options on where these works of art may be able to retire and hopefully, continue to bring smiles to the faces of locals and visitors alike. 

 11. Wouldn’t these dollars be better spent on roads?

The FTA 5339 funding that was awarded for this project is specifically for public transit and cannot be use for road, bridge or highway infrastructure. There are other funding sources available through USDOT for road, bridge and highway infrastructure that the City, Borough and State are eligible to apply for. 

 12. Who is going to work on the buses if and when they need repairs?

The proposed budget funded by this award includes workforce development and training funding for our mechanics and staff. The good news is that 80% of the battery electric buses parts are identical to our current fleet. This means that we have the experience and expertise already to manage the new buses with the added training for the other 20% that will be new. 

Additional Information

Related Documents

Ketchikan Gateway Borough Zero- Emission Fleet Transition Plan FY2022

Project Partners

Gillig Bus Manufacturing
Center for Transportation and the Environment(CTE)
Ketchikan Public Utilities (KPU)

Quick Links

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Low or No Emission Vehicle Program - 5339(c)
 FY22 FTA Bus and Low- and No-Emission Grant Awards