LJWorld Green

Transit group recommends biodiesel fuels for buses

City commissioners on Tuesday night will receive a recommendation that the city purchase six new transit buses that use environmentally-friendly fuel sources.

April 27, 2009


Voters in November approved new sales taxes to keep the city’s bus system alive, and now city commissioners are poised to take their biggest step yet to make the system more environmentally healthy.

At their weekly meeting tonight, commissioners will receive a recommendation that the city convert its fleet of public transit buses over to a system that largely relies on biodiesel fuel made from soybeans and other plant and animal material.

“I think it is a really exciting time for our bus system,” said Casey Toomay, the city’s interim director of public transit. “We very well may be moving into a new era.”

The recommendation — which came from a study group made up of city and Kansas University transit leaders — calls for the city to purchase four heavy-duty transit buses that are equipped to run on a fuel mixture of 80 percent conventional diesel and 20 percent biodiesel. The buses are expected to cost $350,000 to $370,000 apiece.

The group also recommends the city purchase two hybrid electric buses that would run on a mixture of conventional diesel, biodiesel and electric battery power.

The hybrid buses are expected to cost about $580,000 apiece, or about $200,000 more than traditional buses.

“The hybrids are a test for us,” Toomay said. “It is a recognition that while we have some resources to pay for new buses, the resources aren’t unlimited. The hybrids definitely have a higher upfront cost.”

The study group also examined converting the city’s fleet over to a system that uses compressed natural gas, which has been touted as one of the more effective ways for transit systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the study group is urging the city to steer clear of that system.

The group said it was concerned it would cost the city from $500,000 to $1 million to build a new compressed natural gas fueling station for the buses. The group’s research also suggested that fuel mileage for compressed natural gas buses would be significantly less.

City Commissioner Mike Dever had urged the city to examine using compressed natural gas buses — which are used at the Kansas City International Airport. Dever said Monday that he was surprised that the buses didn’t measure up better, but said he likely would accept the group’s recommendation.

“This is still going to make a huge impact on our emissions,” Dever said.

The new biodiesel buses are expected to reduce carbon monoxide emissions by about 11 percent and emissions of unburned hydrocarbons by about 21 percent, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The hybrid buses likely would produce greater declines in emissions, Toomay said.

The city also is holding out hope that it will be able to increase the percentage of biodiesel it uses in the future. Currently, the warranties for new buses don’t allow for more than a 20 percent mixture of biodiesel. But Toomay said that as more research is done, many experts believe higher percentages of biodiesel use will be deemed safe for existing engines.

The city has received $1.9 million in federal stimulus money to help pay for the buses. The city also received $2.8 million in previous federal grants to replace the city’s bus fleet, which is about nine years old. The city will be required to match the federal grants with about $500,000 in local money. The city already has that money set aside from past budget years.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


Chris Ogle 9 years, 1 month ago

The hybrids are a test for us,” Toomay said.

The real test should be how to most effeciently transport the limited ridership on the T. , not how much we can pay for the buses.... Taxi service or vans would conserve fuel, the environment, and financial resources,.....but does that matter to our fine city? ..... NO...... They think it is free money....Guess what... it aint free money.... I guarantee it.. .

gccs14r 9 years, 1 month ago

I'd rather the whole system be electric, rather than engine-driven.

Danimal 9 years, 1 month ago

This is retarded, biodiesel in the US is horrifically inefficient. Maybe in 10 or 20 years when we have better plant-based biodiesels that we've developed this will be a good idea. For the time being though, diesel, or hybrid electric is probably the way to go.

I love how they're talking about new buses but haven't shown anything about new routes or more transfer stations. Wasn't that supposed to be one of the big selling points last fall? Are we just buying new buses to run the old crappy routes?

cowboy 9 years, 1 month ago

The city might want to just let the new transit director do his job and keep all these frigging amateurs out of the picture completely.

doing a little googling the new transit director implemented a system using smaller 14 passenger buses that ran busy corridors and they actually changed the routes to be more efficient after the startup.

when a system is not generating ridership , is too slow to get you there in a reasonable time , and is losing money hand over fist , it is not the time to be buying "heavy duty' buses and building propane fueling stations.

And exactly when are these dumb asses going to start selling advertising on these buses ? It seems after the sales tax was passed by a majority of bleeding hearts the pressure is off the city management to make fiscally sound decisions. With revenues down this group will spend us into deficit faster than you can blink an eye.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 9 years, 1 month ago

"The hybrid buses are expected to cost about $580,000 apiece, or about $200,000 more than traditional buses"

Are you people out of your freekin minds??????? How long until this "savings" is realized, the year 2525????

Who is running this cat-house, the ctity manager????

Who else would go along with this screwing of the taxpayer, even more than we have already been screwed by this still-born transit system that serves about 2.3 people per bus per trip. What a waste of tax money! Someone should be flogged!

Sigmund 9 years, 1 month ago

Waste of money and fiscally irresponsible wirh no one to hold accountable and based upon junk science that borders on religious fanaticism.

devobrun 9 years, 1 month ago

What is a Kansas University transit leader?

Is the report from these "leaders" available for inspection?

What was the criteria for recommendation? Cost? Environmental impact? EPA threats? Style and fashion? A cool multimedia presentation by a future lawyer in a senior-level project class? A wide bumper for "I love Barack" bumper stickers?

No tellin' what criteria the KU experts used. Probably has something to do with social justice, though. Redistribute the wealth from Exxon to the farmer. Act locally, think globally.

KLATTU 9 years, 1 month ago

"Waste of money and fiscally irresponsible wirh no one to hold accountable and based upon junk science that borders on religious fanaticism."

That pretty much sums up American politics in action: waste of money, fiscally irresponsible, no one held accountable, and based on religious fanaticism.

Godot 9 years, 1 month ago

They are planning to use the entire sales tax increase to purchase new buses, leaving nothing to fill the gigantic hole in the transit service budget, Why am I not surprised? This is a debacle.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 1 month ago

As long as he doesn't try to conceal his rather pronounced ideological agenda, devobrun would make a fine reporter.

DRsmith 9 years, 1 month ago

We must save the planet even if it breaks us! Typical tree hugging Lawrencians.

feeble 9 years, 1 month ago

Why do it half way? The city should install nuclear reactors in all of our buses.

The city needs to be focused on their bottom line!

SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 1 month ago

I would usually react to such numb-skulled nitwittery from our city's "leaders" with disgust. This bit of fiscal irresponsibility, however, is so boyond the pale as to have me depressed!

Connacht 9 years, 1 month ago

"We must save the planet even if it breaks us! Typical tree hugging Lawrencians."

Feel free to pack up and leave if you don't like the way Lawrence operates.

I can't say what would be the best way to handle the cities public transportation system, as I suspect few people are able to do so, but that sure doesn't stop people from posting their comments as though there were obvious, simple solutions.

Maybe some of you should actually run for city commissioner or something that would actually make a difference. It's easy to criticize from the peanut gallery...

sunflour 9 years, 1 month ago

Isn't the report that the task force submitted available online as a part of the city commission agenda?

Godot, most of the money is coming from other earmarks already intended for fleet replacement, in addition to the stimulus funds, which are specifically intended for transit fleet replacement!

Chris Ogle 9 years, 1 month ago

"Feel free to pack up and leave if you don't like the way Lawrence operates."

Please be careful on this one.... the way this city operates, we need all the taxpayers we can get.

SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 1 month ago

What's hilarious is that the buses we're replacing were never full, never even close to capacity. Our government predicted that emp-T ridership would grow into them, but that never happened.

So now we've had seven years of 20-passenger buses lumbering around town, spewing diesel exhaust, wasting our tax dollars, and transporting 0-2 riders each on average. This should outrage the fiscally responsible among us.

I'll ask: Is this is the government we want to trust with transit? Is this is the governement we want to trust with healthcare? Please wake up to reality, friends. We're headed in the wrong direction.

zzgoeb 9 years, 1 month ago

I just love the comments on these boards...people moaning about tax dollars being wasted on expenses buses, when I'm pretty sure the same knuckleheads drive 40K sport utes than burn premium gas! Why don't you all complain to GM and Chrysler about that? Oh, that's right, those companies are going broke because they have a shortage of ninnies like you all to buy their dino-beasts!!!

Janet Lowther 9 years, 1 month ago

A couple months ago, I calculated the gas price necessary for various hybrid cars to pay out their cost premium over their conventional brethren over 100,000 miles.

In order to recover the additional cost in that period, gas prices needed to be between four and five dollars per gallon.

That was a major improvement from the previous time I ran the numbers, when gas needed to be well over five dollars a gallon. Hybrid prices either have to come down a long way or gas prices need to more than double for hybrids to pay off.

SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 1 month ago


The environmentalist fringe is already lobbying to raise fuel taxes by so much that $5-per-gallon gas will soon seem like a pleasant dream.

On top of that, the government will waste hundreds of billion$ in taxpayer dollars on dead-end experiments into alternative energy.

Unfortunately, it won't be the free market setting the prices for energy and transportation in the future. It will be the government.

Flap Doodle 9 years, 1 month ago

In tomorrow's news, "Transit group recommends buses be shined with unicorn earwax to reduce wind resistance".

gl0ck0wn3r 9 years, 1 month ago

That giant sucking sound you hear is your money leaving your wallet thanks to the "grass roots" efforts of the T partisans. Hmmm... spend more on a bus that will run mostly empty while tax revenue is falling. That makes perfect sense.

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