Electric Yellow School Buses? Pure Green Grease

By Steve Haner

Having voted to give Dominion Energy Virginia a blank check to spend billions of your money on offshore wind turbines, the Virginia House of Delegates will vote today to provide hundreds of millions more from your pockets for electric school buses.

Last week the House defeated a similar bill, twice. It received only 35 votes the first time and 44 votes the second. The response from the utility and the Senate patron was to introduce a new bill “Thursday,” after she received unanimous consent from her fellow senators. 

Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, told Senators the bill she was putting in was identical to the one they had voted on previously. People in the House suffered from “miscommunication,” she said, and didn’t vote the way they were supposed to (see video at the bottom here.) But once Senate Bill 1096 got over to the to the House Commerce and Labor Committee in a special called meeting on Saturday, a substitute bill appeared for approval. Trust me, that had been the plan all along.

Neither of the special committee meetings was streamed and archived. Because the legislature will be having a Sunday session to clean up the unfinished business on its calendar, Dominion gets another bite at your wallets. Bored legislators will have lots of time to peruse incoming emails and tweets. (UPDATE: At 5 pm Sunday the House adjourned without voting on this, but is returning Thursday for more of its overtime session.)

The Lucas substitute is even more expensive for ratepayers than the bill previously rejected by the House. The first bill authorized 1,050 of the buses over five years, with a cost cap of $284 million. This second bill authorizes 1,250 of the buses over five years, with no cost cap in the legislation. Using the earlier figure, the cost may be closer to $338 million.

As with everything the General Assembly does for the utility these days, the project is declared “in the public interest” and will be financed through a rate adjustment clause, an additional rider on Dominion customer bills. With several new add-on charges coming in the omnibus energy bill, one more will barely be noticed. For the buses the utility might also pay for them with the excess profit money it otherwise might have to return.

The buses cost $200,000 or more above the cost of a diesel vehicle because of the batteries, which Dominion plans to use as an energy storage system distributed around its territory. The batteries have a 220-kilowatt capacity, it was said in an earlier committee hearing. A question from Bacon’s Rebellion to Dominion back in February was ignored, but that seems that works out to more than $1 million per megawatt of storage.

Draining the batteries while the buses are parked creates the possibility they won’t be charged for their runs. The new bill recognizes that, as did the old one.  Here is the new language:

  1. In any agreement between a Phase II utility and a participating school division concerning an electric school bus project, the agreement shall address compensation to the participating school division for the use of the bus battery for electric grid stabilization or as a peak shaving resource when such use compromises the participating school division’s ability to transport the students either through bus unavailability or insufficient charge.

The new bill adds yet another wrinkle, an exemption from local business property taxes for the buses, which will be owned by the utility and thus taxable. Unlike for solar, this appears to be a total exemption. It will set the precedent for other battery storage facilities to come, a major policy change.

This is shameless rent seeking, pure green grease for the utility. The legislators who have voted for this may have some explaining to do to constituents. Legislators who switch from opposition to support will be the most visible in the pack.

During the debate on the larger renewable energy bill Thursday, the strongest speech in opposition came from Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas. (Start about 9:40 in on this video.) Claiming that nobody in the body is more worried about the climate than he is, he called the bill:

“…an attempt by Dominion to continue to feed its addiction…to its monopoly power and to ratepayer money.” Picking up (don’t tell me he’s a reader) on my “resistance is futile” meme, he said the utility has “adapted” to the new political reality “and they are doing their gouging on renewable energy projects,” taking advantage of the desire to attack climate change in any way possible. Carter is not yet among the assimilated, unlike most of his young colleagues. 

 There is no better example of his true statement than this bill, up for a final vote today.  It also proves once again that no bill is really dead until the circus leaves town.

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47 responses to “Electric Yellow School Buses? Pure Green Grease

  1. Virginia’s state government, including its elected representatives, working with it crony capitalist enablers (here Dominion), is no longer a legitimate government, it is a kleptocracy.

    See:
    https://www.merriam-webster.com/news-trend-watch/former-ethics-director-us-at-risk-of-being-seen-as-kleptocracy-20170731

  2. So, one way to look at this is as a pilot – and I guess it could have been a stand-alone just for electric buses and not involve the utility but in this case they actually wanted to also test the ability of the buses to be storage batteries for the grid – and perhaps one way to get practical data is to include the utility which see’s it’s role as not a charitable foundation for green research but instead a for-profit investor corporation that not only gets paid for it’s expenses but also makes a profit.

    Given all that “understanding”, it still sounds like a very expensive proposition and not very cost-effective.

    There are about 17,000 school buses in Virginia – scattered across the state – is it remotely possible that if all of them were dual-purpose transportation and mobile-storage-batteries that they could …. now pay attention to this part – act as storage for solar sites dispersed also throughout Va?

    Now, there will be and are, those who say this is a job for the private sector not taxpayers but we’ve already gone quite some distance down this path with incentives for hybrid/plug-in cars, credits for solar, even direct tax credits for energy-efficient HVACs, insulation, windows, etc – NOT TO MENTION – letting that coal plant down SW Va way – continue to operate for decades!

    You have to give the Dems credit – they’ve created a crap-load of legislation that will make big changes, across the board in Virginia and ample fodder for the GOP to promise to roll back if they are put back in the majority!

    The new normal these days is “outrage” at every action taken by govt – never ending, in fact and yes – equal opportunity on the partisan scale.

    For every “green” step forward by states like Virginia, the Trump folks are rolling back other stuff… and each side promising to “undo” what the other side has done if you elect them.

  3. I suspect that as electric buses spread, costs will decrease as will carbon pollution

  4. But what about all the parents who drive their kids to elementary school every day? If they were truly green and walked their talk, they’d let their kids take the school bus. With the exception of kids who go early and stay late for SACC, why drive kids to school?

  5. we have a lot of parents who drive their kids down our way also. So , they all start driving electric cars also! 😉

    just FYI – not everyone who is concerned about global warming is going to do everything possible that they can as “proof” they care. It’s a gradual response – over time as they can adjust to it. Those who demand all or nothing are not really serious about any of it anyhow. right?

  6. LarryG says there are 17,000 school buses in Virginia. Steve says the electric buses will cost $200,000 extra. Without the cost cap, the program would cost $3.4 billion more to purchase school buses if applied across the state!

    Under the legislation, the program is limited to 1,250 buses. At $200,000 a pop, that’s still $250 million. What does Virginia get for $250 million in terms of reduced greenhouse gas emissions? How does that compare in dollars-per-ton-reduced to alternative strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

    If that information were available, I’m sure Steve would have reported it. The fact that the information is not available suggests to me that the comparison would be highly unfavorable to the program.

    • I suggest that the key underlying this rapidly growing problem is cultural.

      Since the days of LBJ, American society, including its political culture, has evolved to the point that now a politician who spends and wastes vast amounts of public money on holy grail causes is deemed to be a politician with growing power, status and prestige, all of it magnified in glittering displays of that politician’s virtue.

      Thus what were deemed sins before, have become virtues now. This deadly and toxic combination drives ever more spending and wastage of other people’s money by our government.

      Making matters much worse now, these horrible habits have spread to other elite power brokers and centers within our society, particularly those now closely allied with government.

      This includes, for example, the elite administrator class in public higher and k-12 education, in the public non profit health care cartels, in the exploding green energy industry nationwide, in the social justice warrior class, and now also in companies like Dominion, and in now well established high tech firms, all of whom are trying to curry favor, and display their virtues, power, and status to one another, and their constituencies.

      So we now have turned our culture upside down. Pride, arrogance, extravagance, hubris, blind ambition, deadly sins before are virtues now. And thrift, the careful spending and husbanding of other peoples money, the public treasury, is no longer deem a virtue and good government. Now it’s a sign of vice (racist, sexist, climate denier, white supremacist, etc). And it is also a sure sign of weakness, someone out of sync and out favor with the in Virtuous Group, a disfavored group white Christians, or deer hunters, for example.

      Meanwhile, UVA’s. President James Ryan spends $10,000,000+ of the public’s money to renovate his house without a whimper of complain. He’s is adored instead. And lavishly so during holy days such as what used to called Christmas time in America.

  7. I got the 17,000 off the web – it sounds reasonable… but that’s also why I feel this is more of a pilot program than anything else.

    the number is from that filthy leftist rag:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/electric-school-buses-are-coming-to-virginia/2019/09/07/f69f813e-cf35-11e9-8c1c-7c8ee785b855_story.html

    I don’t think local school districts are going to use local taxes to pay 200k for a bus and I’d be solidly with the violently opposed on a state-wide basis.

    On the other hand – the urban/suburban folks who like the Dems and are concerned about global warming probably won’t vote anyone out over it.

  8. First … 63% of Virginians believe the state should support increasing the use of plug-in electric school buses and public transit according to a survey by UCS.

    An article in Reuters a couple of month ago said that the buses were to cost $120, 000, not $200,000 more than diesel buses but did not say what the saving in fuel would amount to. In Chicago, where they are planning to convert all the city buses the fuel saving are expected to be $300,000 over the life of the vehicle. Of course the city runs would use a lot more gas running all day, but again, with renewables the costs are all up front..

    Here is the analysis from BNEF … https://news.bloombergenvironment.com/environment-and-energy/new-york-electric-school-buses-to-feed-power-grid

    Why School Buses?

    Using school buses for vehicle-to-grid interactions is one of the better business models, and it’s been taking off in the last few years, said Darlene Steward, an engineer with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. There’s a large focus in the industry on the use of vehicle-to-grid with personal cars, but the use of large fleets is more consistent, she said.

    “School buses have great big batteries, so they can provide more of that steady power.” Whole fleets of them are parked for long periods of time in a specific location, so they can be a guaranteed source of energy, she said.
    (To which I add the summer when peak demand is highest)

    There are also health benefits in switching to electric school buses, as they have zero emissions and don’t expose children to exhaust, Steward said.

    School buses also have set schedules, so it’s easier to predict how much energy they’ll need to complete their routes, said Philip McPherson, New York-New Jersey regional maintenance manager for National Express LLC, the bus operator partnering in New York’s school bus pilot.

    CA and NY have pilot projects underway but Virginia could end up actually leading! That a new one! As long as we have a Dominion addiction, better that it is a renewable one. Maybe we can shift them to just a grid addiction.

    • Yep, and I note that Volvo (I think in SW Virginia) is now making electric trucks… if those big 18 wheelers can be electric AND compete economically with diesel 18 wheelers – heckfire… we got ourselves a CONVOY!

      • Who wants to lead when you are doing something dumb, Jane.? The delta on those prices is partiallyDominion’s share, I’m sure…I’ve got nothing against working with EV buses, but why should the utility own them, reap all the profit and take zero risk? They are playing “the movement” for suckers. An honest approach would be for the state to provide funds for school divisions to move this way. But then it would be open taxpayer funds.

        • Yes, a thoroughly dishonest piece of legislation. Every ratepayer in Virginia should be up in arms. Yet another of endless examples of hidden regressive taxes on those who can least afford it, working middle class, all of it imposed by tricky to enrich Dominion.

          Meanwhile only ratepayers of a certain color will pay for this rider, and so those of disfavored color are charged twice for other people’s kids even if disfavored ratepayers have no kids at all.

          Hence this government and its crony allies constitute and operate as a kleptocracy.

        • Steve,
          Not sure about the ownership. Why is the budget allocating the funds to buy the buses if Dominion is to own them? AND why is local business being exempted from property tax on the transportation part of the budget, but not residents? An ownership split? What is happening in those other states is that the utility is picking up the cost difference for EV buses and paying for the charging stations in exchange for the right to use the buses as storage.

          CA is doing something a bit different. They are installing solar on their schools and combining with buses and charging into a micro-grid with which they expect to be able to run everything when there is an outage because of the bus storage capabilities.

          Some states are leasing EV buses …. so is there an ownership split in VA? The state actually contracts for all school buses purchased. I couldn’t find out more about the state’s involvement in school buses because the DOE has pulled down the ‘bus contract’ site.

        • Well put. This is not an issue about electric school buses. It is an issue of Dominion’s undue influence over the kleptocracy in Virgina.

  9. Depending on who you ask, it costs about $5K in fuel costs a year for a school bus and a life span of 10-15 years.. so this is way NOT cost effective unless
    the life of the bus is way longer with an electric engine.

    Would people be willing to pay TWICE as much for energy if they felt it would save the earth from Global Warming?

    Don’t tell me what the Conservative types and skeptics think.. already know that!

    But what about those that “believe”. How “strong” is their belief?

  10. If you go by news sources, The NY Times article by Ellen Rosen on Jan. 30, 2020 said the cost of an electric school bus is up to $400,000: “Under the program, Dominion, which provides power to about 7.5 million customers in 18 states, will pay for infrastructure like the wiring and charging stations. An electric bus can cost as much as $400,000; the utility will absorb the $200,000 or greater cost difference between a diesel and an electric bus because many school districts find that prohibitive.” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/22/business/energy-environment/electric-school-buses.html

    And going back to Sept 7, 2019– https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/electric-school-buses-are-coming-to-virginia/2019/09/07/f69f813e-cf35-11e9-8c1c-7c8ee785b855_story.html

    “Electric buses cost about $200,000 more than their diesel counterparts, according to Webb.

    “That’s where Dominion is stepping in. The utility will pay the cost difference for the new buses and fund the installation of charging stations and other necessary infrastructure.

    “The first 50 buses will cost Dominion about $13.5 million, according to Webb, which the company is funding by tapping into existing assets and spreading the cost over the next several years. The cost will not be passed on to Dominion Energy customers, the utility said.”

    That comes out to $270,000 per bus.

    An article in Trucks.com in March 2019 https://www.trucks.com/2019/03/22/can-electric-school-buses-make-the-grade/ said:
    “An electric school bus can cost from $200,000 to $400,000, while conventional diesel school buses run $100,000 to $150,000.”

    • The NY Lying Times believed it when Dominion said it would “absorb” the costs, and the Post (which should definitely know to ask) didn’t suspect it would be ratepayers forking over funds. Read the bill.

  11. IF SB 1096 says “G. After December 31, 2025, a Phase II utility shall not develop any new electric school bus projects, and no school board that is not participating in an existing electric school bus project shall participate in an electric school bus project.”

    How does that coordinate with this Dominion statement in the previously referenced NYT article? “… Mark Webb, senior vice president and chief innovation officer for Dominion, said in an interview…
    Dominion wants to increase the number of electric buses on the road so that by 2030, 100 percent of the new purchases are electric.”

    • Well, that was the bill that died Webb was discussing, and the new bill is somewhat different. I’m sure that is one of the “improvements” they are claiming to have made. But if they get this, they will be back. The return on equity on this is worth doing all by itself. (9% times a couple hundred mil collected every year for ten years….).

      • And, as far as I can tell, the 9% return is risk free. In the real world outside of the kleptocracy in Virginia TBills represent closest thing to a risk free return and they hover around 1.5% return.

    • “Dominion wants to increase the number of electric buses on the road so that by 2030, 100 percent of the new purchases are electric.”

      I wonder what other favors, goodies, discounts, or kickbacks, if any, Dominion gets out of electric bus deal, like from battery maker, or station technology maker?

  12. So, it would appear based on what Steve reports, namely that:

    “As with everything the General Assembly does for the utility these days, the project is declared “in the public interest” and will be financed through a rate adjustment clause, an additional rider on Dominion customer bills. With several new add-on charges coming in the omnibus energy bill, one more will barely be noticed. For the buses the utility might also pay for them with the excess profit money it otherwise might have to return,”

    That, if Steve is correct in his reporting, than the NYT and Washington Post are unreliable narrators yet again when it comes to reporting the facts on Green Energy News.

    Quite possibly too, the green energy sources for the NYT and WaPo stories were not telling the truth, and were not verified by the newspapers, so the truth was hidden from ratepayers. Of course, this often is rule, not exception in today’s news reporting on green energy and other holy grail topics that grow in number almost daily now.

  13. Thank you, Steve. Hard to keep up with all this. You do an amazing job of it.

  14. Several questions. Why would all Republican Senators consent unanimously to a transparent attempt to save a House Bill that was voted down twice? There is a clause in the House substitute that makes the utility not responsible for any civil damages caused by the operation or maintenance of one of the electric school buses. Does that mean the local school system will have assume those responsibilities? Or are the parents of injured or killed school children just out of luck. The problem with last minute legislation is that no one gets to ask questions, let alone get the answered.

    • re: ” Why would all Republican Senators consent unanimously to a transparent attempt to save a House Bill that was voted down twice?”

      good question!

  15. “You do an amazing job of it.”

    Where would we be on these issues without Steve?

    Totally Lost, as to much going on.

  16. Pingback: Electric Yellow School Buses? Pure Green Grease – Tech News From The Future

  17. johnrandolphofroanoke

    The maintenance costs on these slick electric buses must be factored in. Highly trained electrician/mechanics will need to be hired. Big purchases in equipment and tools to maintain. Parts for when they break. Gee whiz.

    • I see this as a pilot project to actually get some real data and from that data, be able to perhaps make some future decisions about what to do and what not to do not unlike the cable/time-of-day thing or offshore wind.

      I’m not sure why so many in the GA on both sides of the aisle are okay with the pricey nature of it and Dominion doing it but also, no strident opposition to it either.

      I think if the GOP had stood shoulder-to-shoulder against it, it would have been a different story and made the Dems a bit squeamish about the optics of it.

      So the whole thing has a “what the” aura to it.

      I HOPE that all of these projects are heavily instrumented to capture data – financial, O&M, etc… so we do get value beyond the actual projects.

      I know the fiscal conservatives are having a hissy fit.. no question and certainly some justification.

      • Ten or twenty buses might be a pilot. A $300 million pilot? Plus there are some comments on Twitter about how this cost for storage is way out of line with existing options. Boondoggle, not pilot. Just like the 2 turbine wind project was.

      • I guess the Route 460 fiasco was a pilot too.

        This has nothing to do with Republicans vs Democrats. It has to do with kleptomaniacs in the General Assembly vs all of us.

        One more time – why should Dominion own the buses? What’s next? Mandatory battery powered toasters in all Virginia home supplied by Dominion with a risk free 9% return?

  18. How long this been going on in Virginia?

    Well, since the beginning of Virginia, it has going on from top to bottom.

    See this in 2013: https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/the-corruption-scandal-you-havent-read-about/

    And some comments then:
    reed fawell III | August 18, 2013

    I suspect this story tells of the tip of an iceberg.

    Our loose and irresponsible ways in the spending of public monies, a horrible habit turbo charged by high government officials of both political parties in the execution of their public duties, has now metastasized.

    It’s a rot now spreading downward and outward throughout all levels of our government and those professionals who now feed off of our government. I am referring to the contractors, lawyers, accountants, consultants, special interests, unions, educators, non profits, you name it, given the ever growing list of pigs feeding at the overflowing trough of public monies.

    So the Alexandria city police station is another iteration of the Arlington County’s million dollar bus stop. This Public Private Corruption is business as usual in most societies and nations. It arises from a pervasive disrespect and flaunting of law and morality in public service typically hijacked for private gain and aggrandizement.

    Our nations strength grew from and is dependent upon our ability to dig out, upend, and bring down into shame this scourge of public corruption. It is a constant threat, a corruption long ago and even since built into the human heart.

    The fact that this public corruption is now apparently built into the new police station in one of Virginia’s oldest colonial towns is a fit metaphor for state of the Commonwealth. Indeed for much of our American Republic.

  19. Here is more, from 2013, Arlington’s $1 Million Bus Stop found at: https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/arlingtons-1-million-bus-stop/

    Here’s a taste of that corruption:

    reed fawell III | March 26, 2013 at 8:22 am | Reply

    “Actual construction and fabrication for this bus stop cost $575,000 while another $440,000 went to construction management and inspection fees.”

    Even for those who are as cynical as I on these matters, these numbers are extremely difficult to believe. If true, someone or group should be fired.

    Perhaps others should go to jail. How else can you spend this kind of money for such a structure and such “related Construction management services and inspection fees,” other than by theft or fraud? How can gross negligence even qualify here? I can’t see how.

    Note the design of this “bus stop.” It comes out of Vogue magazine – all glossy and slick, but with no comfort, or practical purpose.

    Notice, for example, how the designer couldn’t less about the comfort of those who take refuge in the bus stop to gain protection against the elements. The cold and wet of a frigid windy snowy or rainy day. Note how the front of the bus stop and its roof cants skyward, as if designed on purpose to let the cold wet and snowy wind inside so as to pelt the poor taxpayers huddled inside. Think about the elderly. Think about old folks soaked to the skin in cold wet clothes. Think about these elderly grossly overcharged for protection they deserve, but never get.

    What am I missing here?

    Have not those who designed, approved, and paid other peoples’ money for this bus stop lost sight of what their job is and who they serve?

    Arlington taxpayers deserve a full and complete explanation, line item by line item, and then they deserve a complete overhaul of the procurement system and people that produced this remarkable result that is now being foisted on those they are supposed to serve and protect.

    In the first decade of the 2oth century, the William Howard Taft Bridge was built over Rock Creek Gorge. 1,341 feet long, it soared 133 feet over Rock Creek. The structure was massive; five arches, each 20 feet thick and 15o feet across,plus two concrete anchored arches 82 feet across at each end. The Bridge was so expensive it was called The Million Dollar Bridge. It’s cost that raised such surprise and consternation was $846, 000.

    Surely Arlington County can better explain why a bus stop there cost $1,000,000 to build? Why the county is paying $21,000,000 to build 23 bus stops? Why it does not have a better use for $21,000,000? Why it is unable to “value engineer” the cost of bus stop down to a say $30,000 apiece, and spend the more than $20,000,000 in savings on a more worthy cause.?

    Surely, too, the citizens of Arlington have sufficient interest in their community and how their money is spent to ask these simple questions.

    I note that Washington Post article mentions that as much as 80% the cost of this million dollar bus stop is paid for the Federal and State governments. So perhaps Arlington County is simply taking the view that its somebody else money so lets waste it for the privilege of burning up other peoples money.

    The waste on one level of governments feeds the waste of other levels of government, creating a spiral of waste as everyone else involved (like contractors) feeds like pigs at a trough as well.

    larryg | March 26, 2013 at 10:25 pm | Reply

    Each jurisdiction gets their share of allocations that are tied in part to what the people in their jurisdictions paid in taxes to the State and the Feds.

    Each jurisdiction has a choice on what kind of transportion projects they want to spend their allocation on- transit or roads.

    In neither case, do they necessarily have to meet any kind of an ROI as the money is considered to have originally come from them and once the State and Feds get their cut, it’s up the locality to spend it as they please.

    This is a problem. Many people do believe the money is coming from the Feds and the State instead of out of their own pockets and if they knew it was coming out of their own pockets they might object to million dollar bus stops…

    No where in Virginia that I know of is there a tabulation and accounting of the taxes collected in the name of transportation on a per county/city/town basis.

    You can go to Commonwealth DataPoint and find all kinds of finance data almost down to the pencil for tax and spending – but missing are transport taxes, spending, accounting….

    reed fawell III | March 27, 2013 at 9:42 am | Reply

    Thank you, Larry. That’s very helpful information.

    So in fact, despite what Washington Post says Arlington County officials said, it is Arlington money that will pay roughly $21,000,000 for 23 bus stops. And this is only the beginning. Nothing adds to in this Washington Post story except the outrage and complaints registered by those citizens who have used the first million dollar bus stop. Consider the following.

    1/ Construction management and inspection fees on top of a “$575,000 bus stop” can never in fact amount to $440,000 or any number even remotely close. You can put a false label on anything but that does not make the payment or its label legitimate. In the legitimate world such fees are a small faction of the amount claimed and paid here.

    Someone is not telling the truth here.

    The citizens need to know where that $440,000 went to, why, for what, and who pocketed Arlington County’s money? And they need to know why someone called it for construction management and inspection fees, and why they continue to do so?

    And, if the first bus stop cost $575,000 to build, why are the next 22 bus stops going to cost $904,000 apiece.

    2/ Were these bus stops put out to competitive bid? Were they value engineered to reduce cost? Were the bids negotiated? Was there a guaranteed maximum price. If not why? What are the line item costs of the bid, where these line items numbers negotiated or value engineered. If not, why? Were their cost over-runs, and change orders. If so, why were they approved, and what was original price. Does the County have a cause of action against any party to the building of this $1,000,000 bus stop?

    Why in these times of financial hardship did Arlington County award a contract that would lead the county to pay $21,000,000 for 23 bus stops.

    3/ Why did the county accept a design of a bus stop that fails to perform its intended function: that is to protect its users from inclement weather? Does the county now blame this failure on a “public review process?” Is it the public’s fault the bus stop does not perform its job despite it $1,000,000 cost? And, after all of this, why will the county go ahead and spend another $20,000,000 to build another 22 bus stops that obviously will not work?

    4/ Why did it take 18 months to build a bus stop? You can build a large high rise office building with underground garage in 18 months. Was this really Metro’s fault as the county now allegedly claims? If so, why? And why did the county allow it to happen? And why is there a lengthy environment assessment for Arlington County bus stops? Is that really the state of Virginia’s fault as allegedly Arlington County claims. If so, why?

    5/ Also, according to the Washington Post, Arlington transportation officials say this is “and an investment in infrastructure to support the (Columbia) Pike’s renewals.” Why do these transportation officials believe that paying for a grossly overpriced bus stop that does not work is an “investment” in anything? Why is it not a total waste of taxpayer money, and at best a gross dereliction of duty to the citizens they’d charged to serve?

    6. Now, Arlington citizens are being told that their new 4.5 mile street car line is estimated to cost about a quarter of a Billion dollars. Yes, 4.5 miles of track and cars are estimated to cost a quarter of a trillion dollars.

    Why should citizens trust the people who charged them $1,000,000 for a bus stop that does not work now trust them to oversee the building of an alleged quarter Billion dollar street car to carry folks 4.5 miles up a preexisting street? Why not take a bus, and save the quarter of a Billion dollars?

    And, of course, the quarter $Billion dollars does not include the 23 bus stops at nearly a million dollars a pop. And that’s no guarantee. According to the Washington Post, “the county has budgeted $20.8 million for the remaining 22 stops, or about $904,000 for each one.”

    But “Our goal if at all possible is to do it for less,” says Arlington head of transportation.

    Is it really true that the head of Arlington Country’s Transportation Department is not sure that its possible to build a bus stop for less than $904,000? If this is so, why does not the county replace him with someone who can build a bus stop for a faction of that absurd amount of $904,000? Say, $10,000 which use to be typical cost.

    There is an enclosed urban downtown bus stop that fronts on a major DC designated “Grand Avenue’ two blocks from my house. It works find and it look fine. If it cost more than $10, 000 to buy and install DC overpaid for it.

    Yes, I agree with you that the system is obviously broken. Regulations, bureaucratic processes, and procurement procedures are sky-rocketing costs of public improvements and services. But what happens is that public officials who are involved in the process become corrupted by it. They buy into the process. It becomes part of their reason to be. The reason for their self importance. They get lost in and blinded by and dependent upon the system. Before long they’re blind to the idea that a million bus stop that does not work is an absolute travesty. Nor can they see that its a dereliction of duty on their part if they are in charge of the tragic result.

    But why? they ask. It’s gone through all the approval processes. And they think that is all that counts. The fact it does not work, and that it is grossly overpriced no longer occurs to them. It is simply business as usual. And other peoples money.

    But how the system perverts the players in the system does not change the reality. The reality is the same. It’s still a travesty. And those officials are making it happen. And those on who watch the travesty occur, and often indeed guide the process, need to be shook up, and called out for it.

    In short, there are no good excuse for what is happening here. Those Arlington county officials quoted in Washington Post are indited by their own words, rationales, and efforts to deflect and shift blame onto others. As citizens, there is no good excuse for us not to be outraged about it. Only outrage will get us on the road to correction and good government which is this particular case has gone bad and is plainly out of control.

    There is much more in/under this 2013 post Arlington’s $1 Million Bus Stop.

  20. Let me guess … these new electric buses are made by a company in Mississippi co-owned by Terry McAuliffe and Hugh Rodam?

  21. Figures i see show an electric school bus is $120k not $200k

    • Right. And it the (first) bill, Dominion asked for a cap based on $270,000 per bus. So what do YOU think is going on, hmmm? In fairness, perhaps these batteries are more because they are designed to be part of the grid, too. Remember – the utility makes money on the amount of cap ex….

  22. The base problem here is that Virginia has set up what is at base a utility company and gave it a strong monopolistic position in the marketplace along with a mechanism that creates a strong profit motive with outside investors, operating under a regulatory scheme run by politicians for political purposes who can receive unlimited political contributions from all and everyone involved, and all and everyone involved loves playing the game for money, power and influence.

    Thus the system is inherently corrupt as built and operated. The set up now holds true in large parts of Virginia’s education and health care systems.

    There is no solution save for large basic reforms in these operating systems.

  23. The taxpayers job is to provide a basic education…
    It’s the parents responsibility to provide food, health, etc. and a ride to school…
    Don’t know why my government is asking me to help out more than the state constitution calls for….
    WAY too much personal irresponsibility in this Virginia.. if you want to have kids don’t see why I should have provide all this help..

  24. can’t imagine what traffic would look like if every parent drove their kids!

  25. It is easy to see why Dominion is doing this …. The buses will be available as storage for peak generation … which is very expensive generation … in the summer when our peak needs are the highest.

    Dominion still has several peak generation gas plants on the ‘to build’, list but they have probably figured out that storage will beat peak gas plants on a cost basis anywhere in the country by ??? . I forget which year has been quoted … but it is only a few years

  26. not obvious when buses get recharged and from what – since the primary purpose is to make the two transport runs a day – per the school schedule.

    You could charge the buses at night from the Nukes – much like you’d use Nukes to recharge pump-storage.

    but after the morning run – the buses might be depleted and need to be recharged – as opposed to being able to provide power. Same thing after the afternoon run – depleted and not much reserve to help peak?

    I dunno… how would it work?

  27. Interesting to note that until just now, this bill had no tag and no votes on Richmond Sunlight.
    https://www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2020/sb1096/

  28. Hey,,, Larry the G who has no imagination….
    If government got out of the yellow bus business, then the free enterprise system can take over, and they have lots of imagination and solutions… car pooling, mini vans, uber, lyft, even full size buses, etc…,,,,
    What do you think private schools do????

  29. I don’t think a govt project precludes the private sector from going forward also but the private sector more often than not is looking for short term profits by leveraging existing technologies rather than investing in the longer term on a risk basis.

    And yes there is venture capitalism and it does also have success.

    I’m of the same mind as those who call this a boondoogle – pretty much because Dominion apparently had little interest in it as an R&D partnership… they want their money.

  30. As a person that has done volunteer taxes for a number of years, it has offered insight into our tax policies – both Federal and State and how they influence the “private sector”, in fact, outright distort it.

    The tax codes are littered with incentives and for both business and individuals and I’m not arguing against them or in favor of them here, but just pointing out the ones that do exist and in turn have influence over people’s behaviors and in turn business.

    I’ve talked often her about health insurance, and in particular employer-sponsored health insurance which the government allows people to buy with untaxed money, no income taxes, federal or state and no FICA taxes. Imagine if one had to pay taxes on the money they bought health insurance with – it would be 40% more for most and even higher for those in the higher tax brackets. The Heritage Foundation and other Conservative groups have pointed out that this is one of the biggest cost drivers in health insurance because higher health care costs are essentially embedded/hidden in increased premiums rather than when services are purchased since insurance reimburses; there is no transaction involving customer and provider.

    This is just one area of taxation – and it is effectively a 250 billion dollar subsidy for health insurance.

    The government also lets folks put money into IRA/401Ks on the same basis – no income tax and coming out it’s taxed but usually at a much lower rate.

    Long-term capital gains are taxed at a much lower rate than short-term capital gains.

    And, of course, credits are given for energy efficient equipment and vehicles.

    many more, in fact and all of these do disrupt the private sector markets.

    The best laboratories for small govt and more free markets are 3rd world countries. That’s where you do find how real markets actually do work and yep, nary a single “electric” bus in those countries.. there is no “market” for them at all.

  31. This bill would not only give Dominion noncompetitive permission to replace buses (how do we know their deal is the best one?) but it would guarantee Dominion stockholders a new and ongoing source of earnings. This is expanding the business of an entity that is not subject to the competitive market.
    The original bill was voted down twice. This is an end run around the legislative process and even removes the “Pilot” program, making it permanent.
    Doesn’t seem fair to localities (school systems), rate payers, or potential competitive providers.
    In the competitive market we expect that risk and reward are linked. In this and other deals pushed through the General Assembly, Dominion has gotten the legislature to tell the regulator (SCC) to approve the project and the high earnings, even if its analysis reveals its not a good deal for rate payers. It’s high earnings for little/no risk to the company. Rate payers and localities carry the risk and pay the reward.
    All it does is further enshrine Dominion as a big earning monopoly – giving it control in yet another aspect of Virginia’s economy.

  32. So what is probably really going on is that Dominion has seen the future of basic monopoly electricity and decided they need to change and find other profit-making ventures, preferably ones the state can make taxpayers pay for.

    We march to Richmond to assert our “gun rights” and oppose abortion but we cannot seem to get off our keisters about money in politics and Dominions sweet deals with the GA.

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