Monday, March 2, 2009

Hybrid Buses

Times-Union: CDTA to buy 40 buses
Agency board expects to receive $15.7 million in federal stimulus funding expected stimulus funds

RENSSELAER — The Capital District Transportation Authority board voted Wednesday to use an expected $15.7 million in federal economic stimulus money to purchase 40 new buses.

Daily Gazette:
$15.7M in stimulus money will enable CDTA to pay cash for buses
... The new buses will be a combination of diesel-electric hybrid and clean-fuel diesel that has yet to be determined, said CDTA Executive Director Raymond Melleady.

Editorial: CDTA should use some stimulus $$$ for fare mitigation
For awhile it looked as if the Capital District Transportation Authority would have no choice but to use any stimulus money for capital purchases. But in the final legislation, Congress wisely gave bus service providers discretion with the funds, allowing some to be used for operating expenses. Unfortunately, CDTA has decided to use all of its $15.7 million allocation to buy new buses and none to mitigate fair [sic] increases, one planned for April and another under consideration for 2010.

The Daily Gazette stated in an earlier article (CDTA, riders happy with hybrid buses) that CDTA's hybrid buses cost about $475,ooo ($150,000 more than a conventional diesel bus), and get about 4.8 miles per gallon versus 3.8 mpg for a conventional bus. This 2007 CDTA press release said that they had 280 buses and operated about 7.2 million miles each year.

Using those figures, the average miles per bus would be 25,714. Reducing mpg from 4.8 to 3.8 for one bus would reduce the gallons used from 6,767 to 5,357 gallons per bus per year (a savings of 1,410 gallons per bus per year).

Given the higher cost of the buses, fuel prices would have to triple for CDTA to break-even (not counting the cost of battery replacement), but I think this is the right thing to do. A state grant will help offset about a sixth of that cost, and not paying interest to finance the purchase will save a great deal of money (I haven't found the information yet to let me estimate how much).

This white paper "Hybrid Bus Benefits - a Gillig Persepective" discusses the difficulty of estimating fuel efficiency on diesel buses, but points out the added benefits of cleaner emissions and quieter operations. (CDTA will be buying the bus from Gillig Corporation, but this white paper wasn't on their site, but on the site of a Michigan customer.)

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