Stimulus Funds to Aid Transit Authority's Green Initiative: Hybrid Buses

Kentucky's Transit Authority of River City plans to spend $5.37 million of stimulus funding on hybrid buses.

by / March 30, 2009

Kentucky's Transit Authority of River City (TARC) plans to further green its bus fleet using federal stimulus funding. TARC, which serves the greater Louisville community, expects to receive $17.6 million and will use $5.37 million on 10 hybrid buses, according to the agency's Executive Director Barry Barker.

The agency's fleet is comprised of 260 buses, nine of which are electric-diesel hybrids. Three more hybrids will be added in May or June, and the stimulus-provided 10 will hopefully arrive by spring 2010. For each hybrid bus added to the fleet, one traditional bus is taken off the streets. Gillig Corp. of Hayward, Calif., makes TARC's hybrids.

"Any chance we can get to buy buses, we're going to jump on," Barker said. "We've in fact got a backlog of old buses that we'd like to get rid of. Of course, when you replace them with hybrids, the uptake in fuel economy and air quality reduced emissions is significant."

Barker said purchasing the 10 hybrid buses will create 70 jobs, according to a formula that was developed and from discussions with engine and seat manufacturers among others. Gillig has already hired 30 people to prepare for its upcoming work on the buses, he said.

Each bus costs about $537,000 -- that's approximately $200,000 more than its clean-diesel counterpart. Barker said each hybrid bus uses about 3,000 gallons of gas less annually than the old buses. Depending on gas prices in Louisville, TARC can save up to $12,000 per bus each year.

Enlisting hybrid buses into its fleet has changed the way the public views the transit authority. "We got these hybrids and overnight we went from being part of the problem to part of the solution," Barker said. "I have never seen quite a change in public attitude as I have saw with that."

Barker said TARC is still in the application process for the funds, but the agency has prebid approval to start with some of its initiatives. "We're bugging them every day now about what do you still need in our application," he said. "We are putting together the order for the buses."

Barker explained that the Federal Transit Administration distributes formula funding directly to communities that have populations of more than 200,000 people. According to the administration's Web site, "For areas with populations of 200,000 and more, the formula is based on a combination of bus revenue vehicle miles, bus passenger miles, fixed guideway revenue vehicle miles, and fixed guideway route miles as well as population and population density."

The Web site also has a breakdown of how much funding each state will receive from the stimulus bill under its State-by-State Transit Formula Program Table.

Funds will also be used to help TARC catch up on projects that were kept on the back burner. This includes replacing the roof that covers its main storage garage, which is approximately the size of six football fields. Barker said this project should have been completed three to five years ago.

Barker also said TARC plans to install solar panels on the new roof. "Essentially when I'm flying into Louisville, the planes generally come in over downtown and I can see our facility is this huge, expansive black tar," he said. "It aggravates me every time I see it, so if I could get it doing something productive, like producing electricity, I'll be a happy camper."


Elaine Rundle Staff Writer