Daisy Rodriguez, at rear, takes the bus for free during her break from work as a personal care aide. "It's great because the money that I spent for the bus pass, I can buy things that I need – the things that I couldn't get myself because you have to be on a budget these days," Rodriguez said. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

Electric buses operated by CTtransit returned to Connecticut’s roads on Monday after a battery fire more than a year ago put the state’s entire fleet out of service.

The state Department of Transportation said Monday that the bus fire in Hamden last summer was due to a design defect that was part of a national recall from manufacturer New Flyer.

Since then, DOT officials say the entire CTtransit electric bus fleet has been upgraded, and each operating bus has been thoroughly inspected and tested. Operators and maintenance workers also received additional training, according to the DOT.

CTtransit plans to move a few of the New Haven-based vehicles to Stamford later this summer — and the DOT has purchased more electric buses with the same manufacturer to expand the state’s fleet, said DOT Public Transportation Bureau Chief Ben Limmer.

“We’re fully confident in the battery electric buses’ safety and stand behind our decision to put the buses that we currently have back into service in New Haven,” Limmer said, adding the agency is looking forward to “an additional 50 buses by the end of next calendar year.”

Those new buses will replace fleets in Hartford, Waterbury, Stamford and New Haven as part of Connecticut’s climate goals to eliminate vehicle fossil fuel emissions by 2035, Limmer said. His division plans to add over 140 buses in the next several years to reach more of the state.

“These buses operate in areas that are disproportionately burdened by air pollution, and removing diesel emissions is vital to the health and well-being of all our residents,” CTDOT Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto echoed in a statement.

This story was first published Aug. 1, 2023 by Connecticut Public.