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Bloomington City Council approves funds for additional hybrid bus


Dave Rollo, council president and District 4 council member, speaks April 3 at the Bloomington City Council meeting in City Hall. The council voted Wednesday to approve funding for an additional electric hybrid bus. Alex Deryn

The Bloomington City Council voted Wednesday night to make Bloomington Transit more earth-friendly.

The council discussed appropriating finances to purchase an electric bus and two additional BT Access Vehicles, public transport for people with disabilities, and voted to allocate more income tax to fire departments that were previously not receiving the money.

Both resolutions were passed unanimously. 

“Enthusiastically yes,” said council member Jim Sims upon voting on the appropriation ordinance for the new buses. 

Of all the buses Bloomington Transit has, 20% of them are hybrid electric, said general manager Lewis May. He said he wants to work on incorporating more earth-friendly options into Bloomington’s public transport system. 

The first electric bus was approved in the 2019 city budget. May said Bloomington Transit would get the electric buses in late 2020 or early 2021.

“Electric bus technology is not fully mature, it is still developing,” May said. “But there have been significant advancements made in the recent years, enough to make us comfortable to get our feet wet with using them.”

May said the biggest challenge for Bloomington Transit is the buses’ battery ranges since the electric buses can only run about 150 miles per charge, enough for buses to stay out 12 hours daily. 

Council member Chris Sturbaum asked May about his funding “wish list” for the transportation department. May discussed the need for additional funding for operation of the buses.

“The need is more on the operating side, to pay the cost of providing service is the biggest need,” May said. “There aren’t as many sources we can cap for that.”

He said he wants to increase bus frequency on Sundays and expand routes into more underserved areas.

A resolution that allocated more funding to fire departments within the county was also passed. The departments filled applications to be given a section of the local income tax. The resolution allocates revenue to six separate fire departments within the county.

Stinesville Volunteer Fire Department, Monroe County Volunteer Fire Department, Ellettsville Fire Department, Monroe Fire Protection District, Northern Monroe Fire Protection Territory and Van Buren Township Fire Department will all receive the funds. 

“We’re in good shape this year to support the capital needs of the county,” said council member Isabel Piedmont-Smith. “I encourage this body to approve the resolution,”

It was unanimously adopted among the council members.

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