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Alexandria still buying gas-powered buses for DASH despite goals to go electric

A DASH bus in Old Town Alexandria (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Electrification may be the future for Alexandria’s DASH bus network, but officials say diesel buses are still the present.

In a meeting with Alexandria’s Transportation Commission, DASH General Manager Josh Baker said maintaining good repair comes ahead of all other goals and cited Metro as a warning of what happens when transportation systems work the other way around.

“We’ve seen what happens on Metro when the Metro was built and not maintained,” Baker said. “For us, the top priority is good repair, followed by electrification then expansion.”

Baker said eventually the goal is to make electrification a part of DASH’s normal operations, but the funding isn’t there yet.

“I think we can get to a place where electrification is part of good repair, but at the moment, that cost differential is not funded,” Baker said.

City leadership has previously discussed the challenge of both the ambitious electric conversion of the fleet and the funding sapped away when DASH went fully fare-free. Deputy Director of Transportation Hillary Orr previously told the Transportation Commission that the city has ten buses that are reaching the end of their lifespan and, despite pledging to go electric by 2037, it was likely the replacement buses would still be gas-powered rather than electric.

“[DASH] ordered 10 diesel buses,” Baker said. “Is that a bad move? I don’t think it’s a bad move at all, we have to maintain the fleet. We want to continue to be electric, but if we don’t have the money to do it we’re not going to stop buying buses and get to the point where our service decays.”

Baker said around 14% of DASH’s buses are curently electric.

At the meeting, DASH officials said an electric bus costs $1.2 million while a diesel bus costs $600,000. Officials said the life cycle of an electric bus is less than a diesel bus, but they don’t know yet what that looks like at mid-life and end-of-life for electric buses.