San Antonio is among the fastest-growing cities in the country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, San Antonio
was ranked fourth in population growth from July 1, 2011 to July 1, 2012. An expanding population can represent a positive shift for a city; however, every community still faces challenges when managing rapid growth. For San Antonio, one significant challenge has been a marked increase in the number of vehicles on the road.
A major consequence of increased traffic is increased emissions that contribute to air pollution, including ground-level ozone. This common pollutant poses risks to human health, the ecosystem, and the economy. With San Antonio experiencing high concentrations of ground-level ozone during the summer months (the city’s ozone season), VIA Metropolitan Transit, the city’s public transportation agency, began looking at ways to green the community through the public transportation network.
For more than 30 years, VIA Metropolitan Transit has been a premier public transit agency, serving 1,226 square miles of Bexar County, including San Antonio, 12 other incorporated cities and the unincorporated areas of Bexar County. VIA offers its riders a variety of services, including daily bus service, bus rapid transit (BRT) service, paratransit service for riders with disabilities, vanpool service for commuters, and special event park & ride service.
In late 2010, VIA added 16 compressed natural gas 60-foot articulated buses to its BRT route, Primo.
The VIA fleet is made up of more than 500 vehicles, operates more than 2.2 million hours, and drives more than 33.9 million vehicle miles annually to serve approximately 45.3 million passengers each year. The region benefits from these services because they provide essential transportation options and promote alternatives to single-occupant vehicle travel, an important strategy for air quality improvement.
In late 2010, VIA added 16 compressed natural gas (CNG) 60-foot articulated buses to its BRT route, called Primo. In late 2013, the agency added three more CNG buses to its Primo fleet. The Primo route services destinations between and within downtown San Antonio and the South Texas Medical Center.
VIA has adopted other alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies as well. The agency replaced older, gasoline-powered paratransit vans with ones that run on propane and added three all-electric buses to its downtown route. Thirty diesel-electric hybrid buses operate on express routes. VIA is aggressively analyzing fuel types and associated emissions in pursuit of its on-going commitment to air quality. The fleet makeup already reflects this commitment, but the agency has plans for continued improvements, including the replacement of more diesel vehicles with CNG vehicles within the next five years.
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GRTC is a member of the Virginia Clean Cities (VCC) coalition, which over the years has hosted a variety of workshops, webinars and other training opportunities for fleets interested in transitioning to CNG. Another coalition member — the City of Richmond — inaugurated its fleet of CNG refuse haulers in 2011, which set the stage for GRTC’s transition. View the YouTube video to see how VCC helped the city implement its CNG fleet.
A long-time champion of cleaner, greener technologies, the Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) has provided public bus service to California’s Western Riverside County since 1977. RTA’s service area is among the nation’s largest, covering 2,500 square miles. The agency operates more than 160 buses on 36 fixed routes and eight commuter routes, 98 dial-a-ride vehicles, and 10 trollies.
Building new maintenance facilities for transit agencies are rarities, but when agencies do build them, it’s critical to design and build to the highest performance possible — these facilities and their efficiencies will live on for decades. As part of preserving limited revenue, agencies are focusing on how efficiently design facilities can help the bottom line.
Switching our bus fleet to compressed natural gas from liquefied natural gas and diesel was a carefully weighed decision at DART. But in the end, it was a no-brainer: go with the fuel source that will promote clean air while saving taxpayers $120 million in fuel costs over the next 10 years.
Maintenance facilities are the operational backbone of transit agencies, helping wash, clean and maintain thousands of buses, railcars and ferries each and every day. This regular maintenance makes them huge consumers of water and energy (and money). Many cities across the country are mandating transit agencies create more efficient facilities not only as good stewards of the environment, but also to help the bottom line.