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Flint, San Diego Go Green With Propane Vehicles

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and the Mass Transportation Authority (MTA) in Flint, MI, recently added propane-powered vehicles to their fleets to improve service, save money and reduce airborne emissions.

The MTA in Flint replaced 16 diesel buses with Propane Vision buses from Blue Bird—the largest rollout of the company’s buses for commercial use.

“Blue Bird Propane Vision buses allow Flint to provide green, affordable public transportation while saving taxpayer dollars,” said MTA General Manager and CEO Ed Benning. He said the 35-foot buses, a model typically used by school districts, “were purchased as commercial buses at a cost of $156,271 each and upfitted as public transit buses with transit windows, seating and two wheelchair positions.”

MTA operates the propane buses on its morning and evening peak routes and provides some work-related services, Benning said. FTA funding covered 80 percent of the vehicle cost, with a 20 percent local match, noting that the Blue Bird buses are substantially less expensive than heavy-duty transit vehicles.

The agency said each bus—equipped with a ROUSH CleanTech fuel system and a 100-gallon fuel tank—will cut down on 800 pounds of nitrogen oxide and 35 pounds of particulate matter annually when compared with the diesel buses they replaced.

“This rollout signals an expansion for Blue Bird into the transit bus market,” said Phil Horlock, president and chief executive officer of the company. “We’re bringing decades of experience in school buses and expertise in affordable alternative fuel buses to transit agencies and public transportation riders.”

In San Diego, the first five of 46 paratransit buses from Starcraft have entered service. The rest of the order, as well as 31 minibuses from ElDorado National, will go into service over the next 10 months, replacing current vehicles powered by unleaded gasoline for ADA paratransit and some low-capacity fixed routes.

“MTS has made great strides to reduce its carbon footprint in San Diego over the past decade. Propane-powered buses are the latest example,” said Chief Executive Officer Paul Jablonski. “Over the life cycle of all 77 propane buses purchased, the San Diego region will experience a reduction of more than 13 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Operating propane buses is part of the agency’s efforts to help San Diego and California cut their emission levels by half during the next two decades in the city and by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030.

MTS noted that the propane vehicles will also save the agency $5.8 million during their operational life of five to seven years.

One of Flint MTA’s new propane-powered buses from Blue Bird.

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