Archive for Monday, December 14, 2009

City of Lawrence looking to add diesel/electric hybrids to its bus fleet

The Lawrence City Commission is considering adding three hybrid diesel-electric buses to its fleet. The buses, made by Gillig Corp., would be similar to this bus used by the Redwood Transit System in Humboldt County, Calif.

The Lawrence City Commission is considering adding three hybrid diesel-electric buses to its fleet. The buses, made by Gillig Corp., would be similar to this bus used by the Redwood Transit System in Humboldt County, Calif.

December 14, 2009


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Move over Toyota Prius drivers. You may soon have to make room for a much bigger hybrid vehicle on Lawrence’s roadways.

City commissioners on Tuesday are being asked to add three hybrid electric-diesel buses to the city’s transit fleet. The hybrid buses would be a first for Lawrence’s transit operations.

“We’re excited about it,” said Robert Nugent, the city’s public transit administrator. “There is a real environmental conscience here in Lawrence. I think it is a good representation of the community.”

The buses are expected to cost about $600,000 per vehicle. The city will use $1.8 million in federal stimulus funding to buy the buses, and won’t be required to use any local dollars for the purchase.

The city has more than $1 million in additional federal funding it can use to purchase buses, but transit leaders are not recommending that money be spent on hybrids. Instead, Nugent wants to test whether the new technology gives the city the best bang for its buck.

A hybrid bus costs about $250,000 more than a traditional diesel bus. Nugent said the availability of federal stimulus dollars made now a good time to test the viability of hybrid use in Lawrence.

One thing is for sure, the buses will sound different. The hybrid technology is similar to that on hybrid passenger cars. During low speeds on flat ground, the buses normally will operate only off of battery power. That will mean riders and passerbys won’t hear the rumble of a diesel engine, but rather a hum more similar to a supercharged golf cart.

The diesel engine — which will be a lower emission model than older diesels — will kick in on hills, higher speeds, or when the batteries are running low. The batteries, which are kept in a compartment on the bus’ roof, are charged from the diesel engine and also from energy built up by braking.

“I’m pretty confident that we’ll have lower operating costs in the long run with these buses,” said City Commissioner Mike Dever, who has been urging the city to study alternatives to traditional diesel buses.

Transit leaders aren’t sure yet how much more fuel efficient the buses will be. Other cities have reported that the hybrid buses have fuel mileage in the 7 to 9 miles per gallon range. Typical diesel buses usually operate at about 5 miles per gallon or less.

The city also wants to measure how much less CO2 the buses emit into the air, which is expected to be significant.

Longer buses

One other noticeable difference will be the buses’ size. They’ll be 10 feet longer than typical Lawrence city buses. Transit officials are recommending the city purchase 40-foot buses in order to serve a new jointly-operated route the city has with Kansas University.

The city and KU operate a new Route 11 that runs by several large apartment complexes in the city.

“Some of those apartment complexes may have 40 to 60 people standing outside of them in the mornings,” Nugent said. “We can fill up our current buses pretty quickly at times.”

But Nugent said the department is not planning on converting its entire 12-bus fleet over to the 40-foot models.

“We know we have areas that just don’t justify that,” Nugent said.

The city studied other possibilities besides the hybrid diesel-electric models, including total electric buses that are plugged into a recharging station, and buses that run on compressed natural gas.

Both technologies would have required the city to install new infrastructure, such as a compressed natural gas fueling station or a plug-in-battery recharging station.

“I think these hybrids are probably the safest and best alternative,” Dever said. “I don’t want to make huge investments in infrastructure for something that doesn’t pan out.”

If city commissioners approve the purchase of the buses — which would be made by the Gillig Corp. — the city would receive the buses in about 18 months.


Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for the update.

The bigger vehicles typically come designed for longer life so I learned.

gccs14r 8 years, 4 months ago

I'd still rather see electric trolleys than buses.

gccs14r 8 years, 4 months ago

Either that, or go whole-hog and set up a subway. Then we wouldn't be constrained by the street grid when setting up the routes. The KU stop would need a pretty deep elevator, though.

Jennifer Dropkin 8 years, 4 months ago

When are we getting new buses of any kind? The current city buses are falling apart. It's been over a year since the sales taxes were voted in. If we're waiting 18 months for these hybrids, when are the other new buses showing up?

Boeing 8 years, 4 months ago

Ah yes the subway idea...nice. I like it. I really feel like Lawrence hasn't taken enough of my hard earned income lately, I feel like giving them more.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

There are some newer smaller van type vehicles in use that are helping and get through some of our neighborhoods with ease. Probably some of those could be purchased on the interim however they do have shorter lifespans.

workinghard 8 years, 4 months ago

Isn't the mechanical upkeep on these more than the tradition buses? Isn't repairs for a hybrid car more than traditional cars? Let's hear from hybrid owners.

Godot 8 years, 4 months ago

Yay! Free Obama Money! He gave it to us from his stash!!! Lets waste it, quick, quick!!!

cowboy 8 years, 4 months ago

This is stupid on top of stupid , it's a stupid sandwich , it's a 1.8 million dollar foot long stupid sub. These behemoth's are 40' long , thats a semi trailer for those of you who are distance challenged. They are bought to kelp on the KU routes which is the only thing driver ridership numbers on the T , who by the way pay nothing for these services to you the taxpayer. T fares pay for less than 10% of the operating costs

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

*Park the cars and bring on commuter train service.

*Move closer to work

*walk and/or bike of course

*fewer cars on the road = fewer road repairs = tax dollar savings = less crap in the air.

*Build inner urban bike paths = less money than new roads = fewer repairs cuz bikes are so light

  • Travel by electric golf carts YES! = more space on Mass Street downtown

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

70% of voters that voted approved this use of tax dollars in high voter turn out.

Voters deserve more voting opportunities on tax dollar spending. My guess is more fiscally responsible solutions would be the end result regarding City,County and USD 497 spending.

BigPrune 8 years, 4 months ago

2 mpg better mileage for $250000 more per bus. I'll request a cost/benefit analysis by the Federal Gov't right away.

The bus tax was a bribe of free bus fare to our transient college students that most likely no longer live here to feel its effects and benefit from this taxpayer subsidized ghost rider bus line.

The people passed the SLT 20 years ago and this stimulus money would be better spent on its completion. Any economic improvements require its completion. Let's do the expensive green busses at a later date, please!

BigPrune 8 years, 4 months ago

...after all, what's more important, jobs or hybrid busses? This will be an indicator of how sincerely concerned our City is in creating new jobs, and we should never forget it. If it passes, I for one will be looking for a truly intelligent community to call my new home. I'll be with the other 2300+ that have made the fast exodus out of this town in the past 2 years. Even after 50 years, it doesn't take much convincing the lunatics are running this island asylum.

Paul R Getto 8 years, 4 months ago

Good move; every little bit helps in the energy market transformation.

matchbox81 8 years, 4 months ago

cowboy (Anonymous) says… "They are bought to kelp on the KU routes which is the only thing driver ridership numbers on the T , who by the way pay nothing for these services to you the taxpayer. T fares pay for less than 10% of the operating costs "

KU students pay just as much city taxes as anyone else, with the only difference maybe being car registration. Students pay property taxes through their rent, and sales taxes just like any other Lawrence citizen. They're actually paying twice as much for this transit system as none-student residents are, once through their student fees, and again through the sales tax.

grimpeur 8 years, 4 months ago

matchbox, you'll notice that for some observers, any transportation money that isn't spent on them and their cars is a waste. They can't imagine going even a quarter mile without a car. But they never address their own waste or the waste of their neighbors and families, who drive countless miles alone with 5-8 empty seats in the cars, every day, unnecessarily, even though they could walk, bike or carpool. Then they come in here and complain about congestion and road conditions and pretend that someone else is causing the problem and that the buses are wasteful.

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 4 months ago

gold doors are and trim are included, right?

Flap Doodle 8 years, 4 months ago

As long as the new buses are painted green, everything will be okay. Because the image is what's important.

Michael Rowland 8 years, 4 months ago

"2 mpg better mileage for $250000 more per bus. I'll request a cost/benefit analysis by the Federal Gov't right away."

Let's look at the minimum benefit right here. 2 mpg doesn't look like a lot when you take it out of context. Assuming an older bus gets a maximum of 5 mpg (as stated in the article) and these new buses only get 7 mpg (minimum found by other cities), that is still a 40% improvement.

Anyway, Chapel Hill bought several of these a few years ago, actually pretty much completely updated their fleet from Gillig, and they have been very helpful in that: (1) they were bigger and could better accommodate the larger routes, and in some routes lowered the number of buses on the road, and (2) lowered the number of buses in the fleet because nice, new buses tend to break down less than old, dying buses.

Sigmund 8 years, 4 months ago

What? No EPA Miles Per Gallon comparisons?

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 4 months ago

"The city will use $1.8 million in federal stimulus funding ..."

Chad needs to re-read the press releases. It's no longer cool to call it a "stimulus plan." It's now a "jobs plan."

Describing higher taxes and more government spending as a "jobs plan" fares much, much better in the polls.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

The bus companies are about good jobs. Absolutely one of the best paying jobs in Lawrence,Kansas with good benefits.

The vote to support public transportation is an example of how the population is well educated on the matter.

Collaboration between KU and the City makes dollars and sense. City and KU offer coordinated a pass program

An agreement between the city and the university allows easier access to both bus systems. KU students, faculty and staff can ride the T fixed-route service free by showing a valid KU Card. Riders who show a valid T bus pass or transfer slip can ride the KU on Wheels buses for free.

To help students arrive to campus in time for 7:30 a.m. final exams, several KU on Wheels routes will start early December 14-18.

pace 8 years, 4 months ago

Usually marion just hints about how he feels. I am glad he is being candid and only talking about himself. I am sorry that we for once couldn't just make this thread all about his feelings. I think it should be about how I feel.

I wish the T hired a plain language technologist. We applied for t lift access for a wheel chair bound 95 year old. The 8 page permission request booklet had the old person fill out the same 4 pages they also had a doctor fill out, then the acceptance letter was 32 pages and we aren't sure if it was yes or no. Plus it seems if she gets on a regular bus she can't be smoking a cigar. The city needs a plain language technologist in all its departments. Sanitation announcements are just plain trash. Police don't keep records of crime by neighborhood nor do they tell you when they catch a criminal until long after they fire him. The water department doesn't mention it doesn't test for pesticides. I like the bus system but thought I could mention I hate the City communication systems.

Sigmund 8 years, 4 months ago

merrill (Anonymous) says…"The bus companies are about good jobs. Absolutely one of the best paying jobs in Lawrence,Kansas with good benefits."

You are not serious, are you?? If so it doesn't say much for the current Lawrence economy and job market. One day Alice, one day, POW to the moon!

Sigmund 8 years, 4 months ago

What is the EPA Miles Per Gallon of the old buses compared to the new buses?

BigPrune 8 years, 4 months ago

Merrill, Since when did the taxpayer subsidized M-T bus pay a living wage?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

Between KU and The T they are one of the largest and best paying in Lawrence,Kansas. Perhaps among the top 15.

Facts on Public Transportation

Working on a news story about public transportation? An overview of key facts for the news media is within quick and easy reach.

Public transportation in the United States is a crucial part of the solution to the nation's economic, energy, and environmental challenges - helping to bring a better quality of life.

In increasing numbers, people are using public transportation and local communities are expanding public transit services.

Every segment of American society - individuals, families, communities, and businesses - benefits from public transportation.

FACTS at a glance:

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

Auto Costs Versus Bike Costs

The cost of operating an automobile has intrigued me since I started riding a bike as an adult. From asking owners, I estimated in 1965 that a car cost about 25¢ a mile to operate, which caused a fellow student to scream at me. In the late 70's, when I was an owner, I figured the operating cost at 14¢ a mile, which was unrealistically low. We tend to believe what we want to believe.

Why True Automobile Costs Are Important Discovering the true cost of using a car is more important than just satisfying idle curiosity. In the late 70's, I found myself unable to save money because I miscalculated how much my vehicle was costing. In 1986, I talked with a neighbor who was driving his pickup a hundred miles every day to work for $5.00 an hour, work being hard to find at that time. He had never thought about calculating how much it cost him to drive. But even the roughest figures make it doubtful that his $40.00 daily pay, after taxes and work-related expenses were deducted, would even cover his vehicle costs, let alone compensate him for his efforts. He would have been ahead to have stayed at home. Many people accept long driving times for higher pay, but do they actually sit down and calculate how much their true pay is after subtracting automobile costs and including their driving time into their hours of work? That long drive might result in a lower net hourly income.

Misleading information encourages people to believe automobiles are less expensive than what they actually are. Automobile ads love to claim only $199 per month, ignoring the down payment and other unavoidable costs, and motorists love to claim they can travel for just a few cents per mile, ignoring the cost of everything except gasoline. A Saturn ad went further, claiming that jogging cost 34¢ a mile and was more expensive than driving a Saturn which cost 33¢ a mile. False figures like these encourage automobile use and discourage walking, cycling, and public transportation. They also encourage public spending to be applied to automobile transportation over other means. And finally, they encourage a sedentary lifestyle and environmental damage.

Some cyclists have told me that I shouldn't even argue the cost issue, as it will do nothing to encourage people to ride. I doubt if anyone is going to completely change his or her way of life from an analysis of the costs alone, but changing one's basic perception can be a major step. In any event, it is better to speak a word for the truth than to allow a lie to pass.

More on this matter:

Flap Doodle 8 years, 4 months ago

Walk to work naked in warm weather. Right, merrill?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

"Merrill, Since when did the taxpayer subsidized M-T bus pay a living wage?" Since it's inception.

============================================ Since when did taxpayer subsidized driving pay a living wage? Never. Yet car drivers still beg daily for the government to spend yet another $200-$300 million to build a road that will not solve traffic congestion aka obsolete trafficway. This will require millions upon millions upon millions more for maintenance like snow removal, resurfacing,replacing damaged guard rails,signs and law enforcement etc etc.

Notice how often and the millions upon millions upon millions is spent in Lawrence,Kansas proper for subsidized driving. Then come the county roads expense.

Developers and cars are very expensive budget items.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

"We can't even afford to put stripes on the streets and we are wasting money on a new bus….. Un freakin believeable."

Perhaps those millions being spent buying out a Bio Science private investment gone bad could have financed your concerns? Voters don't get to vote on this such that they did for public transportation.

Certainly were sure voters would say no and must still be in shock that so many understood the economic value in public transportation. It costs $8,000-$15,000 annually to own a car. Face it OUR vehicles are bad investments unless they are strictly job related vehicles. It's time WE admit it.

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 4 months ago

Given the emp-T's non-existent ridership, I think a fleet of two-seater Mini Coopers would be more appropriate.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

The T is here to stay because the voters want it. It now has a dedicated source of local funding plus whatever federal funding will be available each year.

There was never any such thing as an empty T not with providing half a million rides or more annually.

Actual Car Ownership Costs

  MSRP: This is the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. This information can be taken from sites such as Kelley Blue Book or Chrome Systems. This is more commonly known as the list price or “sticker price”, for the large sticker on the windshield as a way to advertise to potential customers. It doesn’t include taxes, registration, transportation to the dealership and other miscellaneous fees. While most people expect to get a discount off the MSRP, when all of the extraneous charges are added in, the final price might be approximately that of the MSRP, or actually higher.

  Maintenance Costs (scheduled and unscheduled): There are three elements that comprise the maintenance cost: Frequency, Labor Rates, and Parts prices. In addition, there are both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance.

  Repairs: Repair costs are those paid by consumers to keep their vehicles in operating condition, excluding the cost for scheduled maintenance.

  Depreciation Costs: Depreciation is the reduction in value a vehicle incurs during a given period of time.

  Gas Mileage or Fuel cost: How well is your car burning its fuel? You can estimate your fuel costs by increasing gas prices by 3% each year to keep up with inflation. Though gas prices fluctuate, it is still a good idea to budget conservatively.

  Insurance cost: Your actual insurance cost will depend on where you live, your driving record and your age. It can vary by type of vehicle, driver, and coverage amounts.

  Financing: This is the amount it costs to borrow money for a vehicle purchase. Every deal will vary depending on the amount of your down payment and your credit rating. Check the latest auto loan rates to estimate your monthly car payment.

  Fees and Taxes: These administrative fees also add to the cost of owning a vehicle. Taxes and registration fees vary greatly by state, especially for high priced vehicles.

  Opportunity Costs: This cost takes into account the loss of interest earnings that could be earned with the funds spent on a new vehicle. The lost “opportunity” to earn interest income is an often overlooked cost of buying a vehicle, but nevertheless is critical to understanding overall costs and a key component when comparing one vehicle to another.

Godot 8 years, 4 months ago

I was waiting to turn left at 11th & Mass tonight when a 40ft semi (beer truck) made a turn from 11th on to Mass. The driver was very skillful, making that turn, not hitting my car with just a few inches to spare. I envisioned that same scenario occurring all over town as these 40 ft buses, with just 2 or 3 people on board, narrowly miss oncoming traffic.

Shame on the city for even considering spending $600K on a 40 ft bus in a city transit system that cannot even fill a 16 person bus on a regular basis.

jafs 8 years, 4 months ago

If you don't vote, then your opinion will not make a difference.

If you care about this town, you should vote.

cowboy 8 years, 4 months ago!.html

Interesting story of the ROI of these buses , in a nutshell they are not any more efficient than a similar sized conventional diesel , due to less passenger capacity and burning low sulphur diesel in a conventional bus , retrofitted for the bio deisel product is much less expensive.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 4 months ago

"Shame on the city for even considering spending $600K on a 40 ft bus in a city transit system that cannot even fill a 16 person bus on a regular basis."

Did you even read the article, Godot? These are the only large buses they anticipate buying, and they will be used on the busiest routes, which do regularly fill the current buses to the max. But I guess if you acknowledge that fact, it's no long the empTy, is it?

Janet Lowther 8 years, 4 months ago

Since these buses are supposed to run on fixed routes, the Trolley-bus idea makes a lot more sense than hybrid. Of course there would be the not insignificant expense of running the power lines over the streets, but with hybrids you are looking at a big battery replacement expense on a periodic basis. Not to mention a pure electric system would probably have less down time than hybrid,

Of course, there is still the chicken and the egg problem: To get anyone but the most transportation poor to ride the bus, they need to come more often, but to come more often they need far more riders than they have now.

The last time I checked, gas prices needed to be well over $4.00/gal for hybrid cars to pay out in their 100,000 mile battery life expectancy - and replacing the battery costs a substantial percentage of the original hybrid premium.

gl0ck0wn3r 8 years, 4 months ago

Merrill's hypocrisy is in full effect on this story. It's not even worth debating him on the subject because he'll just stick his fingers in his ears and keep repeating the same stuff. However, one should note that he does not use the T for his work and he works in an industry (so to speak) that dumps massive amounts of pollution into the environment. Like many of his ilk, he's telling you what he thinks you should do and not what he actually does himself.

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