|Long Beach Transit first to order Gillig BRT- CNG buses (258803)|
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Long Beach Transit first to order Gillig BRT- CNG buses
Posted by Gold_12TH on Sun Apr 15 13:55:29 2012
Long Beach Transit representatives boast the first Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) bus soon to arrive as part of its fleet. The agency is receiving 64 of the new 40-foot coaches to be in full operation by the end of the year, replacing aging low sulfur diesel buses. Pictured, from left, are Long Beach Transit’s Kevin Lee, marketing manager; Marcelle Epley, chief administrative officer and senior vice president; and Larry Jackson, president and CEO.
More than a year ago, Long Beach Transit decided to veer in a new environmentally friendly direction: compressed natural gas (CNG).
As part of the public transit agency’s strategy of switching to alternative fuels and diversifying its fleet, the Long Beach Transit Board of Directors voted in August 2010 to pursue funding for new CNG coaches to retire aging low sulfur diesel-engine buses. The decision was made at a time when the recession and state-budget woes forced the nonprofit agency to initiate pay cuts and implement fare hikes.
Fast-forward to today. Long Beach Transit is well on its way to receiving the first of 64 new CNG buses, built by Hayward-based Gillig Corporation. All the new buses, fitted with eight CNG tanks inside top compartments, are to be in full operation by the end of the year. The new fleet phases out older exhaust-emitting diesel models, including the small-size Passport buses.
Five of the new roomier and quieter 40-foot CNG coaches are to be used as shuttles for the American Public Transportation Association-sponsored 2012 Bus & Paratransit Conference and bus “rodeo” in Long Beach from May 6-9.
“We wanted to see what else was out there,” said Marcelle Epley, Long Beach Transit’s chief administrative officer and senior vice president. “In the next three years, we’ll have fewer diesel buses, and eventually, we’ll have a 100 percent clean-burning fleet of hybrid electric-gasoline, CNG and all-electric buses.”
Hybrid diesel-electric buses, as opposed to gasoline, weren’t an option since the agency is prohibited from purchasing diesel buses under state regulations, she explained. The retiring diesel buses, built by Kansas-based Optima Bus, LLC, are at the end of their life and their expiration date has elapsed, she said.
For years, Long Beach Transit has been a pioneer in the green-technology movement. In 2005, Long Beach Transit was the first transit agency in the world to bring production-model hybrid gasoline-electric “E-Power” buses into its fleet. The move came even before the transit agency was required to comply with regulations set by the California Air Resources Board and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Epley said.
Although the low-floor, hybrid gas-electric buses typically cost more to purchase than CNG buses, the price, fuel and maintenance of an E-Power bus is estimated to be about 16 percent less than a CNG or liquid natural gas (LNG) bus over a 12-year lifespan, according to Long Beach Transit. The transit agency also states that emissions from E-Power buses are “far lower” than CNG or LNG.
Hybrid gasoline-electric buses make up nearly half of Long Beach Transit’s existing 247-bus fleet. They were built by San Diego-based ISE Corporation, which sold off its assets in bankruptcy sale on February 2011 to Bluways, a strategic acquirer based in Belgium. Transit agencies in Las Vegas, Chicago, San Diego, British Columbia and London had also used the company’s technology.
Long Beach Transit continues to operate the E-Power models with secured warrantees, Epley said. But, as a strategic plan to “diversify” the agency’s fleet and stay in compliance with regulations, the Long Beach Transit Board of Directors decided to move in a new direction, purchasing CNG buses to phase out the older diesel models, she said.
Operational costs of the new CNG buses are still unknown at this time, Epley said. However, she said CNG remains a “reliable” alternative fuel technology. “I think the community would absolutely love the new design of the new CNG,” she said. “They’re quiet, they’re roomy and their brand new . . . We think they’re going to be very popular.”
The new fleet, branded with a “Ride CNG” logo, was purchased through federal dollars without having to dip into operational expenses that have been stretched thin due to lower ridership and a decrease in state transit funds in recent years.
Epley added that the new buses, which cost about $450,000 each, and retrofits to the current Jackson Transit Center at 6860 Cherry Ave., with a $6.7 million CNG fueling station, are being paid for through federal grants and other funding sources.
“Public transportation here in Long Beach has come a long way since the horse and buggy days,” said Larry Jackson, president and CEO of Long Beach Transit, in a statement. “Our continued investment in a clean fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles and proven green technologies has made us a leader in our industry. We are proud to see the progress of the new Long Beach Transit CNG fueling station and the development of our new buses.”
The CNG fueling station project is expected to modify the nearly 20-year-old North Long Beach transit facility with new lighting and other retrofits, while switching underground pipelines to handle natural gas. Chris Garner, director of the Long Beach Gas & Oil Department, said Long Beach Transit plans to purchase natural gas from the city to operate the new fleet. However, a formal contract has yet to be finalized, he said.
Bus Service Changes
The brand new CNG fleet is also bringing some new service changes, which were officially approved by the Long Beach Transit Board this month, according to Epley. By the end of August, passengers can expect to start seeing the new CNG buses operating the Passport service.
Epley said the new buses are larger than the current Passport buses, with 10 extra seats to relieve overcrowded routes such as those used by California State University, Long Beach students. The new coaches will also have three bike racks instead of two and will have easier access for passengers with disabilities and who use wheelchairs.
The only Passport bus service that will remain free of charge, however, is the downtown Passport C Route, which is a primary selling point for tourists and conventioneers, Epley said. The route goes to the Queen Mary, down Pine Avenue, through the CityPlace Shopping Center and then to the Aquarium of the Pacific.
All other Passport service routes that are currently free will eventually cost the normal $1.25 fee once the new buses are in operation and incorporated into the agency’s regular fixed-route service, she said. “We’ll be going out into the community and letting people know that these changes are going to be made,” Epley noted.