Collaborative Community: Arts, Education, Sustainability

electric_bus_demo.jpgUGA received funding this week to add 19 electric buses to their fleet, replacing some of the older buses currently in use as soon as early 2017. The grant was announced at a ceremony in the Governor's Office and awarded by the GO! Transit Capital Program, a competitive funding program administered by Georgia's State Road and Tollway Authority. While this is great news for UGA, the news is also good for the Athens community as a whole. These new buses, which are part of the University's strategic plan to advance campus sustainability, will help improve the air quality of the community as well.

"We are grateful to Gov. Deal and the Georgia General Assembly for backing this important transportation initiative, and I thank the Go! Transit Capital Program for supporting our proposal," said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. "This significant investment will put the University of Georgia at the forefront of advancing innovative and cost-effective campus transportation."

The buses will augment the university's existing fleet of 59 diesel buses and will replace the university's oldest buses.

"We tested several electric buses on campus over the past year and found that not only did they perform well, our student drivers and passengers really liked them," said Robert Holden, associate vice president for Auxiliary Services. "By adding sustainable electric buses to our UGA fleet, we also are helping to raise the air quality in our community."

Second to MARTA, the UGA bus system is the second busiest system in the state, with 11 million riders annually. This news means a great deal for sustainability on campus.

The new electric buses are expected to use 171,000 fewer gallons of diesel in a year. The battery-powered motors have simpler maintenance and could last for 20 years or more. Over the buses' lifetime, fuel and maintenance costs are expected to be 84 percent less than those for diesel buses.

"We are excited about bringing this cutting-edge and sustainable electric bus technology to the University of Georgia and the Athens-Clarke County community," said Don Walter, director of transportation and parking services at UGA. "These buses will enhance research opportunities, greatly reduce emissions and will slow the growth of transportation costs. Most importantly, the new buses will improve the quality of transportation for students, faculty and staff. Because they're quiet and smooth riding, they tend to increase ridership as they're such a joy to ride."

The electric buses will provide opportunities for campus research. Scientists and engineers in the UGA College of Engineering are working to develop charging technologies-fast charging and wireless charging for electric vehicles, such as buses. Researchers also are building a database of electric vehicle usage, operation and charge time data to come up with a set of best practices. With the addition of the buses, the researchers will have more data to access.

In addition, the electric buses can be used as batteries to power buildings-such as residence halls or dining facilities-for up to five hours per bus. This capacity could be useful during snowstorms or other emergencies, Walter said.

"UGA is demonstrating responsible leadership toward an increasingly sustainable campus and resilient community," said Kevin Kirsche, director of UGA's Office of Sustainability. "Conversion to electric buses reduces greenhouse gas emissions, contributes to energy independence and community health, and provides valuable opportunities for teaching and learning while reducing annual operating costs.

While this award was good for the UGA campus community, another award to Athens Transit means even more good news for the area. Athens Transit received funding to put 10 hybrid-electric buses on the road, replacing 10 diesel-powered buses. The funding, hopefully, is part of a long term trend to reduce emissions and improve sustainability in the Athens-area community. 

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 4.10.46 PM.pngUGA and the Athens community often work together, side by side, to achieve similar goals. This weekend, the Athens community will celebrate 20 years of Athfest, the annual music and arts festival that raises funding for local arts education. Without the work of various entities working together--whether students from UGA as volunteers, employees, performers or artists, local businesses, the ACC government and many more--this longstanding event would not be possible. Athfest raises money that helps bring arts and music education programs to Athens-area schools. 


AthFest Educates is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to sustain and advance music and arts education for the young people in Athens-Clarke County.  In order to fulfill its mission, AthFest Educates produces two annual fundraisers, the AthFest Music & Arts Festival and the AthHalf Half Marathon.  The proceeds from these two events fund the organization's bi-annual grant-making efforts.  Awards are issued in September and January of each academic year. 

To date, AthFest has issued nearly $235,000 in grants throughout the Athens community and all fourteen Clarke County School District elementary schools and its four middle schools have been recipients of AthFest Educates grants. 


Many of these programs are affiliated with UGA. Just take a look at this list of grant awardees and you will quickly see just how well our local community entities work hand in hand towards similar goals. Whether it's sustainability, education for the arts or any other number of projects that benefit the Athens community at large, we are lucky to live in a community that values these partnerships and continues to use them to better our community. If you make it to the festivities this weekend, be sure to check out the latest public art installation via AthFest Educates--a collaboration between Clarke County art students and artist David Hale. A beautiful mural to add to our city's fascade and another fine example of community collaboration. There's a dedication event on Friday and it's free.