Monday, July 14, 2008

'Green' buses to replace old, costly diesel fleet

'Green' buses to replace old, costly diesel fleet
By Melissa Murphy
Article Launched: 07/13/2008

A new fleet of environmentally friendly transit buses will replace the old and more expensive diesel fueled buses in Vacaville.

Last month, the City Council approved the purchase of 10 new 35-foot Compressed Natural Gas transit buses, which will replace the seven diesel fueled buses the city currently uses.

"It's good news for the city and for the passengers," said Brian McLean, transit manager for the city of Vacaville. "We needed them."

The entire cost of the new buses is $4,206,580, which is funded through Federal Transit Administration Capital funds, Local Transportation Development Act funds and Proposition 1B funds.

The city's seven, diesel-powered, 1995 Gillig fixed-route transit buses have exceeded the Federal Transit Administration's 12-year life cycle and are slated for retirement.

"It's very timely considering the costs of fuel alone," said Mayor Len Augustine. "Our Public Works Department never ceases to amaze me their ability to stay ahead of the game."

McLean said the "green" buses will save the city at least $100,000 in fuel costs alone.

"They're using clean burning natural gas," he said. "Significantly cheaper than what the city was paying for diesel."

He explained that the city currently pays $4.06 per gallon for diesel compared to $1.76 per gasoline gallon equivalent to Compressed Natural Gas.

"The savings derived here will allow for the continued delivery and expansion of City Coach services at a time where other local transit agencies are cutting service and raising fares," McLean said in a press release.

McLean said the new buses are a great plus for passengers who are already using the transit services more frequently. He explained the buses have a low floor design, allowing passengers to step from the curb and onto the bus without having to walk up stairs.

The older buses have stairs and can kneel to the curb to help with boarding, which involves a lot of moving parts and is more susceptible to mechanical failures.

"They're wearing out and could become a maintenance liability," said Vice Mayor Chuck Dimmick. "The new buses are more practical and are far superior and more fuel efficient than the older buses."

The new buses have a fold out ramp for wheelchair accessibility, which is a lot easier to operate and maintain, according to McLean.

Dimmick agreed.

"Not only is it easier for wheelchair accessibility, but for the elderly as well," he said.

As the buses trickle in next year, the old buses will be phased out according to age and cost. The three additional buses will be on hand when the services expand.

"It will give us room to expand our stops," McLean said. "We'll definitely need them."