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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis November 29, 2013
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Database Reveals Trends in Public Transportation Vehicle Fleets

Public transit agencies are ­constantly investing in vehicles and technologies that make the experience better for riders. Here are some examples, as reported in the 2013 APTA Public Transportation Vehicle Database.

Alternate Fuels
As of 2013, 40.4 percent of the U.S. ­public transit bus fleet operates with alternate fuels, compared with 13.3 percent in 2004 and only 2 percent in 1992. The most common alternative fuels are natural gas (compressed or ­liquefied), representing 20 percent of the total bus fleet; hybrid technology, 13.2 percent; and biodiesel, 7 percent.

Sixty-one APTA member agencies have hybrid buses in their fleets, and hybrids make up 11 percent of the vehicles on order at public transit agencies.

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority operates more than 1,600 hybrid  buses, the largest hybrid fleet in the U.S. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Seattle’s King County DOT each operate more than 600 hybrid buses. Seventeen U.S. bus agencies (13 percent of responding agencies) have 100 percent alternate fuel fleets.

Vehicle Age
APTA statistics show that the ­public transit bus fleet is getting newer, improving from an average age of 8 years in 2011 to 7.8 years in 2013. Commuter rail cars improved from an average age of 18.2 to 17 years, while heavy rail cars aged from 20.2 to 20.5 years. The light rail vehicle fleet aged from 16.6 years to 17.8 years.

A contributing factor to the addition of new vehicles was an improved financial situation for many public transit agencies, including funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

More public transit agencies are providing Wi-Fi on board their vehicles. The percentage of buses with Wi-Fi access grew from 0.5 percent in 2008 to 1.1 percent in 2010 and to 3.8 percent in 2013.

More than 13 percent of commuter rail cars offer Wi-Fi, up from 0.5 percent in 2008 and 7.5 percent in 2010. Miami-Dade Transit has equipped all its Metrorail heavy rail vehicles with Wi-Fi, while the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District is running a pilot program on 15 vehicles. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, San Jose, CA, is the first light rail system with ­in-vehicle Wi-Fi service.

On-Board Electrical Outlets
U.S. commuter rail systems provide electrical outlets on board 65.5 percent of their cars in 2013, compared with just 14.4 percent in 2009. On buses, 2.7 percent have electrical outlets, an increase from 1.6 percent in 2009. On longer trips, these outlets help passengers power a laptop to do work or charge a mobile device.

Automated Stop Announcements
As of 2013, 55.6 percent of buses have automated stop announcements, an increase of more than 10 percent compared with 2008. During the same period, the percentage of commuter rail cars with this technology increased from 31.5 percent to 44 percent in 2013, and 49.6 percent of heavy rail vehicles have the technology compared with 37.5 percent in 2008. The largest percentage is on board light rail: 82.8 percent in 2013, up from 53.3 ­percent in 2008.

Automatic Vehicle Location
Global Positioning Satellite and Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL) systems are increasingly available on public transit vehicles: In 2013, 70.9 percent of buses and 66.9 percent of light rail vehicles had such systems. Forty-two bus agencies have AVL systems on at least 95 percent of their vehicles. Heavy rail vehicles usually use track circuitry or signaling systems to provide vehicle location information and arrival times.

APTA publishes the Public Trans­por­tation Vehicle Database annually for the benefit of its members and the public. It is available here.

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