41% of U.S. public transit buses use alt fuels, hybrid technology

Posted on April 17, 2015

The public transportation industry is doing its part to help the environment. Every year, 37 million metric tons of carbon emissions and 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline are saved due to use of public transportation in the U.S.

Noting that public transportation use means less cars on the road and a cleaner environment,
American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President/CEO Michael Melaniphy said, " The public transportation industry is a leader in sustainability, committed to incorporating green, sustainable practices wherever possible. This commitment is demonstrated in many ways including the use of alternative fuel and alternate powered buses, LEED certified buildings and solar arrays."

APTA's latest research shows that 41.3% of U.S. public transportation buses were using alternative fuels or hybrid technology as of January 1, 2014. This is in striking contrast to the 2.1% of automobiles using alternative-fuels in 2013. If you add in flex-fuel automobiles, the percent for automobiles is 4.2%, according to the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) Annual Outlook.

APTA statistics for 2014 show that 16.9% of public transit buses were hybrid-electric. Coming in a close second, public transit systems report that 16.7% of U.S. transit buses used compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and blends. Biodiesel is used by 7.4% of public transit buses. Other alternative fuels, such as propane and hydrogen, account for 0.3%.

Listed below are examples of the diversity of bus fleets across the country in small, mid-sized, and large systems. This list, which also includes other environmentally friendly technologies and practices, is a sampling of what is happening at public transit systems across the country.

Hybrid-Electric Buses

• Albany, N.Y. – The Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) operates 77 hybrid-electric buses across its four county service area. More than 20% of CDTA's regular route fleet is comprised of hybrid vehicles, which get at least 50% more mileage than regular diesel vehicles. As part of its fleet maintenance plan, at least 20% of new bus purchases will be hybrids. CDTA Hybrid technology not only looks good, but also contributes to a positive impact on the environment. CDTA will operate these hybrid vehicles for 12-15 years.

• Ann Arbor, Mich. – Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (TheRide) currently has 52 hybrid-electric buses in service, bringing the fleet to 65% hybrid - - the highest percentage of operating hybrid-electric in the Midwest and one of the highest in the nation. Each hybrid saves TheRide about $4,738 per year in fuel costs — nearly $57,000 over an average 12-year lifespan. TheRide has ordered 27 new buses for 2015 delivery, which will be used for new and expanded services as well as to replace older buses in its fleet. These will include a mix of both conventional clean diesel and clean diesel-electric hybrid buses.

• Cleveland – Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) has 21 hybrid-electric Bus Rapid Transit vehicles, of the 24 BRT buses in service, on its HealthLine which serves 5 million riders annually.

• Cincinnati – Cincinnati Metro is adding 37 new "mini-hybrid" buses to its fleet beginning on Earth Day. The new buses will bring Metro's "mini-hybrid" total to 115 in addition to Metro's 27 hybrid buses. The "mini-hybrid" buses use thermal cooling technology to provide improved fuel economy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

• Denver – The Regional Transportation District (RTD) operates a fleet of 36 ultra-low emission hybrid-electric vehicles. These four-door vehicles carry up to 115 passengers. The vehicles operate on the Free MallRide, a free shuttle bus service along downtown Denver's 16th Street Mall, a 1.42 mile-long transit and pedestrian mall.

• Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – Broward County Transit (BCT) has 81 hybrid buses and an additional 5 arriving next month. BCT's hybrid fleet is comprised of both 40-foot, 42-foot and articulated buses, all of which feature a mini-hybrid thermal system that operates on diesel fuel and electricity. BCT began purchasing hybrid buses in 2008 and have consistently ordered approximately 11 each year.

• Orlando, Fla. – Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX) began operating all hybrid electric buses for its LYMMO fleet in April 2014.

• St. Petersburg, Fla. – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) introduced 10 hybrid-electric buses to the fleet in 2009 in an effort to improve fuel economy and lower emissions. Since then, PSTA has significantly expanded that number bringing the total to 48, nearly 25% of the entire fleet. By the end of 2015, an additional 14 hybrid buses are expected to join the team.

• San Carlos, Calif. – SamTrans added 25 diesel-electric hybrid buses to its fleet over the last two years. The hybrids save fuel and produce 90 percent less nitrogen oxide emission than the 1998 buses they replaced. These buses also produce fewer inhalable particulates and greenhouse gas emissions. The fuel technology used in the new diesel buses have engine emission certification levels that are the same as those found in buses powered by CNG. The state-of-the-art buses also generate less noise for a smoother and quieter experience for customers and communities.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Buses
• Arlington Heights, Ill. – Pace is currently retrofitting its South Division garage facility in Markham, IL, to fuel and operate CNG-powered buses. Pace has its first 91 CNG-powered buses on order and expects to have them in service in approximately one year. Annual fuel savings are estimated to be $1 million per year versus diesel-powered buses at this facility.

• Cleveland – Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) continued to successfully pair economic with environmental considerations when it began incorporating alternatively fueled vehicles in its bus replacement program. Beginning in April, 90 new CNG buses will be placed into the fleet, with a total of 240 on order. Natural gas costs 1/3 that of diesel, resulting in savings of more than $200,000 for the life of each bus. GCRTA's fleet of CNG buses will emit 30% fewer greenhouse gases by 2017.

• Dallas – Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is nearing completion of its bus fleet conversion from diesel and liquefied natural gas to CNG. The city bus fleet transition was completed in early 2015 and an order to replace 46 express buses and 17 for service expansion has been placed with New Flyer. Those buses will begin service in 2016.

• Fort Worth, Texas – Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) is one of the first U.S.public transit agencies to convert to CNG buses, beginning in 1989. The T continues to operate a 100% CNG fleet that numbers 180 buses, mobility impaired services vans and rubber-tired trolleys. Also, The T has recently upgraded its natural gas compression stations with more efficient equipment.

• Orlando, Fla. – Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX) and Nopetro have entered into a public-private partnership (P3) where the transit agency will receive a turnkey CNG fueling station and the generation of revenue from third-party customers. Under the terms of the P3, switching from diesel to CNG is expected to provide the agency with annual positive returns on its investment approximately three years from the scheduled completion, in the second half of 2015. LYNX will purchase and/or lease an initial 35 CNG buses and is projected to have more than 150 CNG buses within the next five years. The 150 CNG buses would represent half of its current pool of 300 diesel vehicles, resulting in a more fuel-diversified and environmentally friendly fleet.

• Phoenix – Ninety-five percent of the bus fleet at Valley Metro use alternative fuels, with a majority operating on CNG. Buses continue to be retrofitted with the electric engine cooling fan system that lowers pollutant emissions and helps reduce fuel consumption.

• San Diego – Metropolitan Transit System's fixed-route bus fleet has 617 buses which operate almost 30 million miles each year. This fixed-route fleet is currently 85% CNG. By June 2016, the entire 40-foot and 60-foot bus fleet will be CNG, and the fixed-route bus fleet in total will increase to 93% CNG.

• Tampa, Fla. – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) new fleet of CNG 40-foot buses began service on March 30, 2015 and will replace the agency's aging diesel buses that are ready to be retired. The 22 buses will be running exclusively on CNG), and each bus is estimated to reduce annual fuel costs by $16,022 per year and significantly limit harmful emissions. Last year, the agency also added 28 CNG vans and opened a CNG fueling facility with partner Clean Energy Fuels Corp.

All-Electric Buses
• Dallas – Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has received a low- or no-emission vehicle grant from the Federal Transit Administration to support the purchase of 7 electric buses. This fleet is scheduled for service in early 2017.

• Indianapolis – Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation (IndyGo) will have 21 battery-electric buses in operation by the end of the year.

Biodiesel and Propane Buses
• Cleveland – Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) began a pilot program in 2014 to test the effectiveness of propane-fueled vehicles in its paratransit fleet. The 20 vehicles included in this test (about 20% of the fleet) are expected to both save money and reduce pollutants.

• Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – Broward County Transit (BCT) purchased 138 new propane fueled buses in 2014 to be used exclusively for its paratransit program. BCT now maintains the largest propane paratransit fleet in the Southeast. The new vehicles replaced an aging fleet of cargo vans that were no longer meeting the needs of BCT's growing paratransit customer base. Last year, BCT's paratransit program was recognized by the National Propane Education and Research Council for increasing the use of propane auto gas within its fleet.

• Muncie, Ind. – Muncie Indiana Transit System's (MITS) entire 31 bus fleet runs on B20 Biodiesel, of which 13 of the 31 are hybrid electric. MITS is also in the process of updating their paratransit fleet with propane powered vans. Currently 3 of the 15 are propane powered.

• Orlando, Fla. – Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX) in May 2009, became the first transit agency in the nation to build, operate and blend its own biodiesel fueling station.

• Wilmington, Del. – Delaware Transit Corporation (DTC) has been successfully running a year-long propane pilot program on five of its paratransit buses which ends in June 2015. Performance has been positive, as the agency is realizing cost savings and reduced GHG emissions. Having just started the 5 year fleet replacement program for its 300 paratransit buses, propane appears to be a viable option for a portion of these replacement vehicles.

Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel
• Fort Lauderdale, FL – Broward County Transit (BCT) added 5 new commuter coach style buses to its fleet in December 2014 with plans to buy 9 more before Fall 2015. The commuter coach buses operate on ultra-low sulfur diesel and can travel up to 400 miles. These buses will be used for BCT's Express Bus Service which travels during weekday rush hour from western Broward County to downtown Miami along South Florida's major interstate highways.

• Cleveland – Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) uses all-electric trains on its heavy-rail Red Line, as well as its light-rail Blue/Green Line, across 35 miles of track, serving nearly 10 million riders each year.

• Phoenix – Valley Metro's 50 light rail vehicles operate on electricity as a power source. Solar reflective tinted glass windows are used on all fleet vehicles. Train windows have a spectrally selective coating that reflects heat causing infrared rays without impairing visible light transmission. The passenger windows are made up of two layers of tinted grey glass with 20% visible light transmission. Between the two layers of glass is a film that reflects infrared rays which lowers the interior temperature of the car. It is estimated that this type of coating can reduce solar heat gain an average of 35% more effectively than tinted glass.

LEED Status Buildings
• Dallas – Dallas Area Rapid Transit's (DART) transformation of the historic Monroe Shops streetcar barn into the headquarters for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police Department is recognized by the United States Green Building Council as the first publicly owned building listed on the National Register of Historic Places to achieve the LEED platinum certification, the organization's highest recognition.

• Denver – The Regional Transportation District (RTD) received LEED gold certification for the Union Station bus concourse. The building is 30% more energy-efficient than a building of comparable size. Some green features of the building include, natural light from skylights, a green cleaning policy, low-flow public restroom appliances, resulting in a 35% water-use reduction and 150,000 gallon potable water saving a year, and a state-of-the-art ventilation and air monitoring system that increases ventilation by 30%.

• Indianapolis – Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation (IndyGo) is currently building its first transit center which will feature solar power, storm water management and curbside rain gardens, energy efficient lighting and HVAC. The Downtown Transit Center will be a minimum of LEED Silver Certification and open within the next year.

• San Diego – Metropolitan Transit System's (MTS) new $30 million South Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility, which opened in July 2014, has been certified as LEED silver. Highlights for the 14,000-square-foot administration building and 48,000-square-foot maintenance building include rooftop solar panels, expanded CNG fueling stations and a new bus wash water reclaiming system. MTS also broke ground on a second bus facility in October 2014 – the East County Bus Operations and Maintenance Facility, which is also being planned for LEED silver certification.

• Tampa, Fla. – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) after a major renovation project in 2014, HART received LEED Silver certification for the primary administration building located at its 21st. Ave facility. The project obtained 50 of 110 available points and included upgrades to the building's HVAC, lighting, and energy management systems. The project has demonstrated an annual energy cost savings of 14.85%. Additionally, building products that incorporate recycled content where used in construction as well as FSC Certified wood. 23.28% of the total building materials content, by value, have been manufactured using recycled material.

ISO Certification
• Cleveland – Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) will be seeking ISO 14001-certification of all of its five bus and maintenance garages, with the first expected to be granted in 2015. "We are creating a high-performance culture, focused on action, accountability and quality management. We're focused on environmental initiatives, such as emissions reduction, air quality improvement and waste diversion, while determining and reducing GCRTA's carbon footprint. This is certain to improve the environment for the community we serve, while providing long-term economic benefits to the Authority," said RTA's CEO/GM, Joe Calabrese.

• Albany, N.Y. – The Capital District Transportation Authority installed a 50KW solar panel system at its headquarters in 2012, designed to high standards of sustainability. The 220 solar panels feed power back to the building helping to lower its energy bills. The roof has been designated as a RoofPoint Registered Project which demonstrates roofing excellence in several key categories, including energy, materials, water, life-cycle and durability management. The authority also uses solar power to illuminate some of its bus shelters as well as its park and ride signs to help mitigate energy costs.

• Arlington Heights, Ill. – Pace has 108 solar-powered bus shelters, in which the lighting is provided via a solar panel mounted on the roof. Solar shelters are located throughout our six-county service area and more will be added.

• Phoenix – Valley Metro will begin using solar energy as a power source for the light rail operations and maintenance facility in Phoenix. The new solar plant, which is comprised of 2,800 panels mounted at ground-level and on shade canopies, is capable of generating 1.3 million Kilowatt-hours (kWh) of annual energy savings. That's a cost savings of $70,000 and enough power generated for 123 homes each year. In addition, 896 tons of carbon dioxide will be eliminated from the environment annually, which is equal to the emissions saved from 189 automobiles or nearly 101,000 gallons of fuel not consumed.

• St. Petersburg, Fla. – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) went solar in 2012 with the introduction of solar-powered trash compactors, shelters and lights. To date, PSTA has 51 solar trash cans which not only reduce long-term maintenance costs, but has also cut the number of trash cans needed at a bus stop in half. PSTA has also illuminated 90 bus shelters and 16 bus stops with solar-powered lighting.

Water Reclamation
• Albany, N.Y. – The Capital District Transportation Authority reduces water consumption, saving tens of thousands of gallons of portable water each year, through a reclamation system installed at bus washers in each of its three bus divisions. The system captures the majority of the water that is used to wash buses, reclaims it, filters the dirt and uses it for the next bus.

• Phoenix – Valley Metro's water is captured and delivered through a solid waste separator for reuse. Each bus wash saves approximately 122 gallons or provides a 60% reduction in reoccurring fresh water usage.

• St. Petersburg, Fla. – Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) uses low-flow irrigation systems and reclaimed water when washing any of the 207 buses in the fleet. In addition, PSTA's state-of-the-art bus washing facility recycles and filters the used water to protect the groundwater supply.

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