Transit Industry Invests in Innovative Ways to Go Green

Posted on March 10, 2010 by Claire Atkinson, Senior Editor

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[IMAGE]VTAsheep.jpg[/IMAGE]In today's economic climate, it could be assumed that projects requiring substantial capital outlay — including any projects or vehicle purchases aimed at "going green" — would be forced to the back burner. However, the federal government's economic stimulus initiatives have made many such projects possible.

Susannah Kerr-Adler, vice president and director, sustainability, at Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), confirms this trend. "With the new administration and the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) grants, there's a terrific mechanism to leverage that interest [in going green] even more," she says. "When you look at the TIGGER (Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction) allocations, you see alternative fuel vehicles that are getting funded that might not have been previously. You're also seeing more focus on renovating facilities to look at photovoltaic capacity, changing energy storage systems, green roofs, etc. - so there's not only the green design and environmental impact, but also using this as a mechanism to positively influence the costs of maintenance and operations."

Green vehicle purchase

LINK Transit, based in Wenatchee, Wash., serves communities in Chelan and Douglas Counties with fixed bus and trolley routes. The agency was recently awarded a TIGGER grant amounting to $2,925,000 for the purchase of five battery-powered electric vehicles to replace the diesel trolley fleet.

The agency had previously considered implementing battery-powered vehicles to take advantage of the affordable hydropower provided through the two local public utility districts, Special Projects Coordinator Greg Pezoldt says. "The problem with batteries has always been that they could not store enough energy to operate over the course of a typical daily service without being recharged," Pezoldt explains. "Until recently, recharging was limited to a slow overnight process that avoided damage to the battery from charging too rapidly. With the advent of lithium-titanate battery technology, there now exists the ability to recharge batteries in five to 10 minutes between routes."

LINK Transit plans to construct charging stations to support the new vehicles. In one possible configuration, the trolleys would drive under the overhead stationary charging stations and connect to the charger with a pneumatically deployed system.

The agency has issued a request for proposals and was set to select a vendor in March. LINK Transit and the Chelan Public Utility District are contributing a $50,000 in-kind match to fund the purchase.

The new vehicles are expected to eliminate an annual 688 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, Pezoldt says. "The overall reduction of greenhouse gases to our environment is further enhanced by the fact that the electricity used to recharge the fleet is generated through local hydropower — a clean greenhouse gas-free process."

The project has also resulted in a positive coordination with the Chelan County Port District, Pezoldt says. "This organization is our primary economic development agency and they have identified the development of battery-electric transportation technology as a business development strategy for our region. They are working with us on marketing and community support," he says. 

"LINK Transit, through the vision of our General Manager Richard DeRock, has always been a forward thinking organization," Pezoldt says. "The federal and state emphasis on greenhouse gas reduction, the development of new battery technology and the opportunity of the TIGGER grant program all came together as a way of reducing our diesel emissions and reducing the noise impacts of our transit fleet at a reasonable cost, while keeping our route efficiency to a reliable standard."

In August 2009, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), based in San Jose, Calif., purchased 70 diesel hybrid buses using $42.4 million in ARRA funding. According to the agency, the purchase contract creates 35 jobs and supports approximately 230 suppliers, vendors and other indirect support jobs.

Additionally, as the Congestion Management Agency for Santa Clara County, VTA helped secure more than $100 million in ARRA funding for cities and the county. Along with the hybrid buses, the funding went toward road rehabilitation projects and congestion management solutions. 

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