Alex Goldmark is a senior producer in the newsroom for New Tech City and Transportation Nation.
New Jersey made out with $76 million in federal funding for its buses — the biggest share of any state in the nation, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday.
The DOT spread $787 million around 255 projects in 48 states, all for buses, from Congressionally appropriated gas tax funds through the Federal Transit Administration's State of Good Repair and Bus Livability fund.
Nearly 900 grant applications "overwhelmed" the DOT, asking for more than $4 billion in projects. The grants are meant to keep the nation's transit systems in good repair.
“Since Day One, this Administration has been focused on addressing the maintenance backlog of our nation’s transit systems, and this is another down-payment on that effort,” said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff.
NJ Transit will use $27 million to replace long-distance diesel buses with new hybrid cruisers for trips from South Jersey to New York City.
For $46 million, old commuter buses past their useful life will be replaced with clean natural gas buses, doubling the agency's fleet of CNG motorcoaches.
Many other cities are also getting funds to retire old buses and replace them with cleaner, more fuel-efficient alternatives: San Francisco ($15M), Los Angeles ($10), Chicago ($20), Miami ($10M).
New York City is getting $24 million to build a "modern bus command center" to replace an arcane radio dispatch system and increase efficiency. The city is also gets $14.7 million to re-paint bus lanes using a special painting system developed with Penn State University designed to make the red paint last longer this time around.
These are upgrades won't remake a transit system, but they will lower expenses by dropping fuel consumption and, most likely, increase reliability as older buses are replaced.
"If you are replacing older buses with newer buses you will expect to see a more reliable ride," said Steven Higashide of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign about the New Jersey upgrades. "Federal funding has been a bright spot for New Jersey Transit but the state hasn't stepped up to match that."
Another $2.6 million in federal funds will begin the process of building bus rapid transit from Camden, N.J. to Philadelphia.
The other main category of funding was facility expansion. Maryland topped that list, with $50 million to replace Baltimore's 65-year-old bus station with two eco-friendly buildings.
To see what bus projects in your state are getting funded, go here.