TigerTransit Powers Ahead With Sustainable All-Electric Bus Fleet
A GREENER FUTURE: TigerTransit’s new fleet of electric buses marks an important step in Princeton University’s progress towards its sustainability goals, as ridership (free for all) continues to grow and the University looks forward to soon becoming the first Ivy League institution to operate only emissions-free vehicles. (Princeton University, Denise Applewhite)
By Donald Gilpin
Princeton University’s new fleet of 17 electric buses and new charging facilities, which were celebrated at a grand opening ceremony last month, are contributing to the University’s progress towards a goal of net-zero carbon emissions.
Its campus-wide plan, “including a massive geo-exchange system,” serves “as a template for other universities and municipalities across the country,” according to a University press release.
Speaking at the celebration, which took place at the University’s new bus-charging station on Alexander Road in West Windsor, Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber highlighted the importance of the electric buses and their contribution to the University’s climate-friendly objectives.
“TigerTransit’s 17 new electric buses advance our campus sustainability goals [and] exemplify the changes we are pursuing as an institution and as a society,” Eisgruber said, as quoted in the press release. “They eliminate 500 metric tons of tailpipe emissions from the campus and local communities annually. Our air is cleaner because of this project.”
All of the University’s full-size buses are now fully electric, and when the last diesel mini-buses are retired next spring, Princeton will be the first Ivy League institution and one of few transit or shuttle operations in the country with only emissions-free vehicles.
A bit more than a month into an all-electric bus fleet, TigerTransit reports rapidly growing ridership and “no performance issues of substance,” according to Princeton University Director of Transportation and Parking Services Charlie Tennyson.
Ridership in September was up more than 50 percent over September 2022 with more than 2,400 boardings per day, Monday to Friday, across the system. There was a similar jump in October.
Tennyson noted that the increases were spread across most routes — from visitor and staff parking facilities, from those making cross-campus trips or connections to their residences, and from those making transfers to rail and other transportation services.
He attributed ridership growth to a variety of factors, including greater on-campus activity as the University continued to rebound from COVID-19; increased service hours to improve mid-day frequencies; better, electric vehicles with messaging making it clear that service is free and open to all; better signage at stops, including real-time arrival screens at 13 stops; and increased public engagement, including participation in a variety of local events in partnership with the town of Princeton.
Tennyson went on to highlight the importance of this electric vehicle (EV) initiative, calling the conversion of the fleet to electric buses “a major step for both the University and the industry.” Many transit agencies and industries are taking similar steps, he pointed out, with TigerTransit and Princeton playing a significant role in working with other agencies and institutions, sharing best practices and learning, as they transition their fleets.
On October 17, the University hosted a Peer Learning Day and EV Operation Tour for more than 70 people from more than 20 university transportation and transit organizations from across the country.
The next additions to the University’s TigerTransit system are expected in early 2024 to support the opening of the graduate housing and athletic facilities in the Meadows Neighborhood, across Lake Carnegie from the central campus. Once the new housing at Meadows is open, TigerTransit will support weekday and weekend connections from Meadows via Washington Road, as well as weekend shopping access to Route 1 outlets.
Manufactured by New Flyer, the Xcelsior battery electric buses have a range of 120 to 200 miles, can run for 12 hours in temperate weather, seat 26 passengers with room for 18 more standing, and each bus offers 14 USB chargers to power passengers’ devices.
Princeton’s Deputy Vice President for University Services Debby Foster praised the hard work and accomplishments of Tennyson and his consultant partners. “It was their extensive research that really gave me the confidence to go to University leadership and say, ‘Yes, this is the right system for Princeton. This is the right solution. We found the right buses. We found the right charging equipment.’”
Eisgruber further noted the extraordinary effort and collaborative achievement. “This progress is the result of a remarkable collaboration between campus and regional partners, other universities, public transit agencies, and private companies,” he said.
For more information on TigerTransit, specific routes, and schedules, see “Getting Around” at transportation.princeton.edu.