Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) Board Chairman Jeff Danner kicked off the deployment of eight new diesel-electric hybrid SmartBuses in Pinellas County.
The fuel efficient and environmentally-friendly vehicles were purchased with federal grant funds and will replace the eight oldest buses in the PSTA fleet. “These new hybrid vehicles offer a host of benefits including increased fuel economy, significantly lower emissions and space for 14 additional passengers over the buses they’re replacing,” said PSTA Board Chair Jeff Danner. “Many of our routes now run with standing-room-only loads, so the larger buses will give riders more room and a better chance at getting a seat.”
“This is win for all taxpayers,” said Congresswoman Kathy Castor. “Not only are we benefitting transit riders and getting people to work, but we’re doing so with buses that cut our dependence on foreign oil and protect our environment. It’s a smart investment all the way around.”
When the PSTA board of directors authorized the purchase of the first diesel-electric hybrid buses in 2008, the bus manufacturer, Gillig Corp., claimed that the hybrids would use 20% less fuel on average than PSTA’s regular diesel buses. Since their deployment in 2009, the hybrids have experienced an average increase of 56% in fuel economy over the agency’s standard diesel buses.
“Being able to add more of these buses to our fleet is a great thing for Pinellas County,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “When you buy 2.1 million gallons of fuel a year, replacing older buses with new ones that are 56% more fuel efficient is a big money saver and a prudent use of tax dollars.”
Miller added that four more hybrids, also purchased with federal grant funds, are on order and should be on the streets by the end of the year. Those will also be replacement vehicles and will increase PSTA’s hybrid fleet to 36 out of 188 total buses.
The new 40-foot hybrids cost about $600,000 each, which is approximately one-third more than a standard diesel unit. However, overall savings in fuel and maintenance are expected to make the lifetime cost (over a 12-year period) of the hybrids equal to that of the regular diesel models.