The only electric bus enters the City Borough of Juneau Capital Transit’s bus barn in late August. Capital Transit is preparing for the addition of seven electric buses which are slated to hit Juneau’s roads sometime in summer of 2024. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

The only electric bus enters the City Borough of Juneau Capital Transit’s bus barn in late August. Capital Transit is preparing for the addition of seven electric buses which are slated to hit Juneau’s roads sometime in summer of 2024. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

Bus down: City preps for incoming electric bus fleet as its current electric bus remains out of commission

Capital Transit expects the new fleet to arrive during the summer of 2024

Preparations are underway for Capital Transit to welcome seven new electric buses in the near future. Meanwhile, Juneau’s lone current electric bus hasn’t been in operation for months due to mechanical issues.

Despite that, City Borough of Juneau Capital Transit Superintendent Richard Ross said he remains confident that the new fleet will come with fewer issues than the city’s first electric bus.

At a recent Assembly meeting, the city OK’d $3.2 million in funding from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to be appropriated to Capital Transit. According to Ross, the funding will go toward installing charging stations and infrastructure in the city’s bus barn in preparation for Capital Transit’s coming addition of seven new electric buses.

The installation and construction for the charging stations are scheduled to begin in the fall of 2023, and Ross said his latest update from the bus manufacturer said the city’s new seven electric buses are expected to be built in March 2024 and sent to Juneau sometime during the summer of 2024.

Ross said the city’s current electric bus — which is the state’s first municipally operated electric bus — has been out of commission since November due to a “wireless harness issue” which he said Capital Transit is having trouble finding parts to fix. He said the bus will remain off the road until fixed, however, he doesn’t know when that will happen.

This isn’t the first time the city’s electric bus has faced issues since it hit Juneau road in April 2021. Last winter, the 40-foot Proterra bus was in and out of operation due to mechanical problems and being unable to hold battery charges for a sufficient amount of time in cold winter weather.

Ross said because of the bus’ issues last winter, the city decided to choose a different manufacturer, Gillig, for the new fleet.

Ross said that based on testing by the Federal Transit Administration, Gillig electric buses reported fewer failures than Proterra, which was a contributing reason for the city’s switch in manufacturers.

Once the new buses arrive, Ross said they will replace seven of the city’s current diesel-burning buses, making nearly half of Capital Transit’s fleet electric. In addition, Ross said there are a number of open positions at Capital Transit that need to be filled and it is critical to have enough staff in order to continue running the buses throughout Juneau and to prepare for the new electric fleet.

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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