Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Public transportation is getting greener

Over 40 percent of U.S. public transit buses are using alternatives-- more than double the amount a decade ago.

In honor of Earth Day, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) sent out a news release detailing all of the industries efforts to become more environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient.  According to APTA, each year 37 million metric tons of carbon emissions and 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline are saved due to the use of public transportation in the United States. 

“Whether it be environmentally efficient transit buses or solar powered buildings and bus shelters, public transportation is a leader in sustainability,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “Many public transportation agencies and businesses know that sustainability not only helps the air quality of a community, but also pays off in cost savings.  It’s a good business practice."

In 2004, less than 20 percent of transit buses were using alternative fuels-- today it's 40 percent.

Kansas is not immune to this trend. Lawrence Transit System currently has three electric hybrids in its fleet.  And the entire fleet uses biodiesel according to Robert Nugent, public transit administrator.

And in November, the Kansas City Area Transit Authority (KCATA) board of commissioners approved a 10-year operation and maintenance agreement with Clean Energy to fuel its transitioning fleet of compressed natural gas (CNG) buses and paratransit vehicles. 

KCATA will begin replenishing its fleet with 25 CNG buses and an estimated acquisition of 15 additional CNG buses each year thereafter until 256 CNG buses have been deployed.

According to KCATA officials, CNG can be purchased for roughly half the price of what diesel costs. A drawback to CNG vehicles is that there are a limited number of refueling stations throughout the U.S. However, as the number of those stations increases, the transit industry expects more agencies to convert their fleets to save money and to reduce their carbon footprints.

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