To the editor:
It was surprising to see the consent agenda for last Tuesday’s City Commission meeting included a no-bid line item of $1,275,000 for the purchase of three new T buses, two diesel and one hybrid; $1,058,205 will come from a federal grant and $216,750 will be paid by the city. Wisely, it was withdrawn for further discussion.
Online sources state a hybrid bus costs from $70,000 to $100,000 more than a straight diesel. Before buying a second hybrid, the commission should receive data showing that the fuel efficiency of the existing hybrid is high enough to offset the increased purchase and maintenance costs. And, while it is legal to make the purchase without a bid, it seems the specs could be furnished to other vendors to see if savings might be achieved.
More importantly, across the nation and locally, cities are switching to trucks and buses powered by compressed natural gas. They reduce pollution while cutting fuel costs. In some places, the price equals $1.50 per gallon for diesel fuel. Kansas City, Kan., schools are buying 47 natural-gas-powered buses; Lee’s Summit, 106; Kansas City, Mo., 300 city buses over the next 12 years, including replacement of two hybrid buses. UPS has 2,700 natural-gas trucks and has ordered 700 more.
It’s time for the city to take a long-range view, secure a long-term natural gas contract with a dedicated central fueling station and switch to natural-gas-powered city buses and trucks.