ITHACA, N.Y.—Representatives from Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) and supporting organizations unveiled new electric buses Thursday morning during a ceremony on the Ithaca Commons.

The seven buses, which arrived in Ithaca last month from California-based automotive and energy storage company Proterra, are the first step in TCAT’s promise to have an all battery-electric fleet by 2035.

“Deploying these first seven buses is a major step towards that goal,” TCAT General Manager Scot Vanderpool said. “TCAT is proud to be doing our part to reduce the carbon footprint for future generations.”

The new buses replace older diesel power buses as part of the TCAT fleet.

The process of actually getting this first set of electric buses on the road has been a lengthy one—four years ago the idea was first floated by Vanderpool, and a year after that a $2.3 million grant was awarded to the organization in order to pursue the endeavor.

The fifth-generation 40-foot ZX5+ buses each cost close to $1 million—part of the reason the acquisition has been drawn out. Funding to make the buses a reality has come from several local sources on top of the grant including the City of Ithaca, Tompkins County and Cornell University. TCAT representatives also say they expect more dollars from the federal Volkswagen Settlement from which the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) were awarded more than $20 million. The Ithaca Voice is still in the process of reporting a more in-depth cost analysis.

TCAT hopes that through more grant applications that more electric buses will join the fleet by 2023.

Also speaking at Thursday’s event was Tompkins County Legislature Chairperson Leslyn McBean-Claireborne, who spoke to the accomplishments of TCAT in working towards equity, while reducing carbon emissions at the same time.

“For many residents, for whom transportation is the only option, knowing that they will play a part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting our earth will mean the world to them—many of them can’t afford their own electric vehicles. It means the world that all of us can say we played a role in protecting Mother Earth,” she said.

The other speakers at the event included Joel Malina from Cornell University, which routinely uses TCAT buses to transport their students; Jim Bright, a New York Power Authority (NYPA) senior engineer; Luis Aguirre Torres, the newly appointed leader of Ithaca’s Green New Deal; Dawn Montanye from Cornell Cooperative Extension’s alternative transit organization Way2Go; and Anna Kelles, the New York State Assemblyperson for the 125th District. All the speakers commended TCAT on its accomplishment.

TCAT’s unveiling ended with free rides on the new buses from around the Commons.

The final comments were from Assemblymember Kelles who said, “being able to get everywhere and to be able to do it in a way that’s the most environmentally friendly way possible is the name of the game in our county. Happy Earth Day to everybody.”

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at