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Congresswoman Celebrates Cleaner, More Fuel-Efficient Bus Fleet

Congresswoman Celebrates Cleaner, More Fuel-Efficient Bus Fleet

Congresswoman Kathy Castor and PSTA Board Chairman Jeff Danner officially kicked off the deployment of eight, brand new Diesel-Electric Hybrid SmartBuses in Pinellas County yesterday. The two gathered with the media and public at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg to show off a new SmartBus and promote the numerous benefits of the diesel-electric hybrid technology.

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,” says 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 Corporation, 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,” says 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 says 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.

Environmental Benefits of Hybrid Technology:

  • Oxides of Nitrogen (NOX)  nearly 100% Reduction
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO)       90%  Reduction
  • Particulate Matter (Soot)     90%  Reduction
  • Hydrocarbons (HC)             up to 90%  Reduction

Piloting the new, technologically advanced vehicle today was current PSTA Driver of the Year Johnnie Dixon. When asked what he likes best about the new hybrid SmartBuses he smiles and said, “Right now, for this bus, I’d have to say it’s that ‘new bus’ smell... there’s nothing quite like it.”  Also on hand were St. Petersburg City Council members Wengay Newton (who also sits on the PSTA Board of Directors) and Leslie Curran.

To learn more about PSTA’s green efforts, visit http://www.psta.net/environmental.html. To see the PSTA SmartBus fleet in action visit the PSTA YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/ridepsta.

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David Conkle February 26, 2013 at 03:39 PM
What you have no answers to my questions?
RidePSTA February 27, 2013 at 02:27 PM
A response is to follow, but patience is greatly appreciated to summarize. There is a character limit on this comment area so I will have to break it down in 3-4 sections.
RidePSTA February 27, 2013 at 02:28 PM
In a word, David, the answer is simply: Funding. Public transit doesn’t pay for itself anywhere in the county. In fact, no matter where you go in the world, public transit is funded by taxes. Here in the Tampa metro area, our annual investment in transit (per capita) has only averaged about half that of our peer cities across the nation. (The following smaller metro areas not only outspend us on transit, but some by as much as six to one: Nashville, El Paso, West Palm Beach, Indianapolis, Hartford, Austin, Tacoma, Charlotte, Tucson, Dover, DE, Cincinnati, Rockville, MD, Dayton, Jacksonville, Portland, Albany, NY, Rochester, Louisville, Milwaukee.)
RidePSTA February 27, 2013 at 02:29 PM
In the world of transit, the debate over run times has a long history. On the one hand, people always want the bus to get to the destination as quickly as possible, but each stop slows the route down, however, without stops, people won’t be able to get on and off and you won’t have decent ridership. Along with the time needed for people to board and pay fares, there are other time consuming factors such as time needed at transfer points to ensure connections, bicycle loading and unloading and passengers in mobility aids. These are issues that every transit agency in the world faces. Ones that are better funded can provide limited-stop express service in addition to the “local” service on routes like PSTA’s 19. Unfortunately our buses on many routes like the 19 are often standing room only at rush hour (as well as numerous other times of day) so we don’t have the luxury of re-routing runs to creating an express. If we did so, it would mean a shorter ride for a minority while the majority would be left to deal with fewer buses and longer waits between each bus. We would truly love to be able to offer express service supported by local circulators throughout the county, but we simply don’t have that kind of funding.
RidePSTA February 27, 2013 at 02:31 PM
Lack of funding also applies for the cross-bay services. The current bay crossing routes run by PSTA and HART are funded through a special state grant specifically for weekday commuter service. We have coordinated those routes as best we can with other routes on each side of the bay, but the funding for that service is so limited that we don’t have many options. We do have plans to increase that service and include the airport and Westshore, but again, we don’t have the funding to do so. With record ridership, we certainly see a demand – we just have no way to fill it. What’s more, if PSTA continues to use property taxes as its main local funding source, by 2016 – due to operating costs rising faster than property values – the agency will be forced to cut 18% of its service with additional cuts follow each subsequent year.

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