Accessibility

Seattle hospital's move to propane fleet maximizes savings, sustainability

Posted on July 29, 2013

Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH), a nationally recognized pediatric, research and teaching hospital, addition of propane-fueled shuttles has helped sustain its eco-friendly initiatives and cut fuel costs.

Commuter Services Goes Green
Located in a well-established residential area of Seattle, SCH is committed to reducing the number of “drive alone” trips generated by hospital staff. The hospital provides a variety of commuter services, including fully subsidized public transit fares, an innovative bicycling program, carpool incentives and educational programs on environmental accountability.

SCH also provides parking and shuttle operations for more than 8,000 staff with connections to public transit hubs and between the hospital, university and research institute facilities. The hospital’s shuttle system operates 16 hours a day and averages 40,000 riders per month. SCH’s combined commuter services, and propane autogas, play a key role in the hospital’s green commuter system.

“Sixty percent of our day-time staff use an alternative commute mode to get to work, including our shuttles,” said Sandy Stutey, manager, transportation programs at SCH. “With propane autogas, we can say we’re reducing particulate emissions from our shuttles by 30 to 40 percent. That’s significant.”

SCH operates a fleet of 15 clean-burning, bi-fuel propane autogas shuttles. In addition to supporting the hospital’s sustainability goals, the fleet plays a role in meeting commute trip reduction laws for the state of Washington, which requires employers with over 100 employees to reduce the number of people commuting by car.

“We’ve taken it upon ourselves to lease space in existing lots and shuttle people in with a focus on creating a lesser environmental impact,” Stutey said. “We take up to 600 cars a day off the road for that final two to three miles of the commuter’s drive.”

Tailoring the Right Ride
Prompted by rising fuel costs and forward thinking within the transportation department, six years ago SCH hired a consultant to evaluate alternative fuel options for the hospital. At the time, lack of equipment and zoning issues for infrastructure made the switch implausible. When Blue Star Gas, a local propane retailer, approached Stutey in 2010 about tailoring a propane autogas solution, the hospital tested six 14-passenger V8 bi-fuel shuttles.

By September of 2011, SCH adopted five more bi-fuel Ford cutaways and the fleet has since grown to 15. According to Stutey, making the switch required “commitment and collaboration” from multiple vendors in addition to some unique equipment offerings.

“One of the things that attracted us to this system is that it’s a conversion that fits right in the chassis,” Stutey said. “We bought unleaded fuel chassis and added on the carburation system for propane autogas. It retains the unleaded tanks and carburetion as a back-up system, which can extend the overall range. It can also be removed and transferred to a different vehicle down the road, posing an even greater ROI.”

When the department converted its larger 24-passenger V10 shuttles, they were outfitted with an extra saddle tank to maximize fuel capacity and to ensure they could run a full day on the longest routes, about 150 miles to 180 miles, on propane autogas alone. Annual driver training ensures that staff runs the bi-fuel shuttles primarily on propane, maximizing fuel savings for the department.

“The big win for me is that the drivers hold themselves accountable to make sure we run on propane autogas at all times,” said Kyle Brown,  manager, parking and shuttle operations, at SCH. “I was worried drivers would switch back to unleaded or not pay attention to the gauge, but they try really hard to make sure the shuttles run 100 percent on propane autogas.”

According to Brown, drivers do a proper post-trip inspection at the end of each day and refill tanks for the next day’s route. Adequate space and zoning issues prevented the hospital from installing infrastructure on-site, but Blue Star Gas responded to its needs and established public infrastructure less than a mile from the hospital.

Economical & Environmental Benefits
Brown estimates the department saves $5,000 to $6,000 a year in maintenance costs alone on the 15 bi-fuel shuttles, and has reduced its fuel spent by 50% compared with gasoline.

As the number of propane autogas vehicles in Seattle increases, SCH has capitalized on volume fuel discounts from the public refueling station nearby. The hospital has further bolstered savings by applying for alternative fuel grants and incentives.

“Blue Star knows what [incentives] we’re qualified for and helps us get the most benefit,” Brown said. “They helped us take advantage of the federal alternative fuel tax incentive in 2012 which further reduced our costs.”

The transportation department is currently analyzing data to determine overall cost savings and return on investment on the bi-fuel fleet, but estimates an 18-to-24 month ROI. For Stutey, the fleet has already met her measures of success.

“Anytime the hospital can save on operating costs we are putting dollars back into high quality care or life-saving research for our patients. And helping the environment is an additional win for staff and the department,” Stutey said.

To learn more about propane-autogas-fueled fleets and the Propane Education & Research Council, visit autogasusa.org.

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More News

WMATA taps taxi companies for subsidized Md. paratransit services

The decision was a win for disability rights activists who pressed WMATA officials to avoid companies such as Uber, because they lack vehicles with wheelchair-ramps and have been sued for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Capital Metro steps up to rescue those impacted by Hurricane Harvey

The agency was able to send five vehicles for the transport of 10 wheelchair passengers from a medical facility in Corpus Christi, Texas to a shelter in San Antonio. They are also offering free passes and travel training to those people that are in shelters in Austin.

Transdev contracted for Denver paratransit system

Transdev operations are scheduled to begin Oct. 1 for the Access-a-Ride program, serving Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson counties in the Denver Metro region.

Car commuters dwarf public transit riders in job access

According to a study, low-income workers who commuted by car had 30 times the access to jobs than those who took public transit. The advent of ridesharing and bikesharing could close the gap.

Mich.'s Blue Water Area Transit adds Q'Straint Quantum securement system

Wheelchair-using passengers simply push a button to engage the system’s automatic locking sequence. Quantum’s arms move into position and secure the passenger’s mobility device by gripping its wheels. The system continues to adjust its grip as needed during the bus ride.

See More News

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close