Image Courtesy of Envato/GIRO

Image Courtesy of Envato/GIRO

Governments around the world are catalyzing decarbonization efforts, pursuing these mission-driven goals with increasing intensity at every level. This includes public transit, which has been undergoing significant strategic shifts.

Based on the experience of the transit agencies I’ve worked with in North America and Europe, collaboration is the key to success in driving forward any electric-bus implementation project.

Build Your Collaborative Network

Before you start, assess who will be the key stakeholders and collaborators that will help drive your success. This should include, but not be limited to: local government, state and national regulators, technological providers, infrastructure and utility consultants, and last, but not least, your agency staff.

The essence here is to build a strong collaborative network with both internal and external stakeholders that will support you at different stages of your energy transition project.

Start Small, Engage Employees and Consider the Full Scale

One of the first things our clients agree on is to start small, and gradually build a vision for a full-scale operation. The second is to engage employees early. It may seem obvious, but it’s critical. Their operations-level perspective view will play a foundational role in identifying scale-up requirements, the components and the data required for smooth operations at scale. Collaborating with employees is key and establishing a shared vision of the desired electric bus ecosystem will enable your organization to make a successful transition.

Image Courtesy of Envato/GIRO

Image Courtesy of Envato/GIRO

When starting out, selecting appropriate routes to test your electric bus operations is essential. These routes should be manageable—neither too long nor too congested—to ensure smooth operations.

You should use your vehicle scheduling software to run different scenarios long before purchasing the buses themselves, as part of your plan to assess the buses’ capabilities. You’ll want to consider your level of service, topography, bus specifications, and other conditions that affect vehicle energy consumption, such as weather.

These scenarios allow you to weigh several different proposals for bus routes, allowing you to minimize resource-use and costs while ensuring a robust and operable solution. A technological partner is instrumental during this optimization process, since they can leverage expertise gained while deploying other agencies’ projects to make your operations shine.

As several industry experts would say, public transit is about people, so it’s key to involve folks in your agency right from the beginning. Collaboration and support from across your agency are critical success factors. Planners and schedulers are at the forefront of the agencies’ energy transition, as they have a good understanding of the agency's unique context, which plays a key role in the success of your planning activities, in creating effective scenarios, and will allow you to deploy buses effectively. Investing in proper training for bus drivers is a must too, to ensure seamless transitions and a better understanding of driving patterns that influence bus energy consumption.

Success Means Staying Up to Date, Every Step of the Way

The introduction of electric buses is uncharted territory for many authorities and demands a robust support system to get your teams up to date on the latest advancements in the industry, and to stay in the loop as the industry, your community, and governments inevitably change.

Before you even consider the purchase of buses, you’ll want to develop communication channels with external stakeholders to help smooth your transition and manage expectations.

  • Governments offer a variety of financial support for the transition to ZEB, and you’ll want to stay in close collaboration with your government contacts in case requirements change. Some may require a detailed plan that includes cost simulations from both a capital and operational perspective. Bottom line: stay connected and look for the latest information all the time.  
  • It’s essential to work with technology providers that are committed to advancing their technologies. Keeping up with technological advancements is crucial for tackling challenges in public transit and mitigating risks. Some providers even go beyond the technology itself. At GIRO, our team of experts works with and advises transit agencies around the world, which is an asset we bring to every one of our collaborations. This wealth of best practices and expertise is an opportunity for transit agencies to learn and make better-informed decisions.
  • With regard to infrastructure and utility companies, there are various thoughts on when to involve these specialists to plan for depots and charging infrastructure. However, it’s important to reach out to potential collaborators very early in the process to identify any constraints and understand how they may affect the deployment of your infrastructure, as well any opportunities which could benefit your operations.

Given the length of these projects, expertise, capacity building and long-term vision are essential. Leveraging external expertise and fostering a collaborative ecosystem are critical to achieving successful outcomes.

Scaling Up Efficiently and With Confidence

Once you’ve mastered the unique context of your energy transition project and built the right collaborative relationships, the focus shifts to scaling up your operations.

The key here is to build confidence through collaboration.

Your agency staff is now well-equipped to move to the next level while leveraging the experience gained during the previous phases. Propagating internal expertise and continuous training remains a must for your people to stay up to date with the technology as it is updated.

Staying in close collaboration with your external stakeholders should not be overlooked either. Anticipating and addressing the technology or infrastructure-related challenges require careful planning, coordination, and above all, collaboration.

Want to learn more about GIRO’s proven strategies for efficiently navigate the public transit zero-emissions landscape? Contact us at and we’ll be in touch.