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PARK CITY — Park City bus passengers may have noticed a shift from older diesel buses to newer electric ones in the past year, and they will see even more in the future.
Park City Transit has been awarded a $2.29 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration's Low-or-No Emission Bus Program, city and county officials said in a news release Thursday. The system, which covers Park City and other parts of Summit County, also received the grant in 2016 and 2017.
Each year, the grant has been awarded to support replacing older diesel buses with buses that are 100 percent electric. Six new electric buses from 2016 were used to create the Electric Xpress, a 6.9-mile all-electric express route connecting the Kimball Junction Transit Center, just off the I-80 exit, to Park City's Old Town Transit Center.
"The idea for an express service on (state Route) 224 has been around a long time," said Caroline Rodriguez, the Summit County regional transportation planning director. "It's one of the two corridors that everybody travels on, so the need for an express service is apparent."
During the seven months it was in operation in 2017, 183,104 passengers used the Electric Xpress, Rodriguez said.
In 2018, 315,877 passengers rode the Electric Xpress from the start of the year through July. That contributed to Park City Transit's ridership of 1,645,896 from January through July 2018. The total does not include rides on Utah Transit Authority's route between Park City and Salt Lake City.
So far there are 37 diesel and six electric buses in the transit system's fleet.
The seven buses from the 2017 grant are in production, Rodriguez said, and are expected to be in operation in December. They will be used to replace various older diesel buses throughout the system.
The most recent grant will be used replace vehicles on the routes between Park City and Salt Lake City, and Park City and Kamas. These intercity bus routes run in partnership with the Utah Transit Authority. These all-electric buses should be available in about a year, Rodriguez said.
She added that each grant requires a local match, and this year Rocky Mountain Power is expected to donate $500,000 to the fund. The remainder is to be determined between UTA, Park City and Summit County.
Rodriguez said 2019 may be the last year the grant is offered.
"We will continue to apply as long as the program is in effect," she said, "but next year may be the last opportunity for this program."
Blake Fonnesbeck, Park City's public works director and transit manager, worked closely with Rodriguez on the grant proposals and planning for all three years.
The new electric buses will connect three transit systems: Park City and UTA, which also has an electric bus partnership with the University of Utah. It will be the only three-agency all-electric transit connection in the country, Fonnesbeck said.
"We're excited that the FTA has faith in us to get these projects going," he said.