Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough transit agency converting its fleet to natural gas

by the numbers

$2.3M The total of a federal grant that HART is getting for the program.

2013 The year that HART expects the natural gas filling station to be running.

20 Amount, in percentage, that HART expects to save in fuel costs.

177 Number of buses within HART's existing fleet.

Source: Hillsborough Area Regional Transit

TAMPA — Hillsborough Area Regional Transit says it's planning to swap out its fleet of diesel-powered buses and vans with vehicles powered by less expensive compressed natural gas.

The transit agency said the move will save 20 percent on fuel costs and could extend the life of buses by 100,000 miles, potentially lowering maintenance costs as well.

"The selling point of this is that it's green, and it's cost-effective," said chief executive officer Philip Hale, who first pushed for the change three years ago when he was the agency's maintenance chief.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded HART $2.3 million to build a compressed natural gas fueling station and outfit its maintenance building with equipment and safety features to service natural gas buses. The agency expects the fueling station to be running by late 2013.

Sometime after that, HART will begin a six-year process of cycling out its older diesel-powered vans and buses in favor of natural-gas-powered vehicles, starting with the 58 vans used for paratransit and suburban flex services. The agency would then start to cycle through its fleet of 177 buses.

Hale said he expects HART to take delivery of 14 new vans in mid 2013. He's not sure how many buses the agency will get in 2014. The vehicles' costs would be funded by federal grants.

Still undecided is which company will deliver the natural gas to HART's maintenance and fueling yard. Possible providers include TECO, which pipes gas to the facility now, or another utility. Hale said the agency will try to secure a long-term, fixed-price contract.

HART isn't unique in turning to alternative fuels. Broward County Transit and LYNX, which operates in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties, both use biodiesel to power buses. Of the Pinellas County Transit Authority's 191 buses, 24 are diesel-electric hybrids.

Hale, who became HART's chief executive two weeks ago, said he became convinced of the benefits of natural gas after working at Dallas Area Rapid Transit, which is in the process of replacing its 700 buses with natural gas vehicles.

More transit agencies are turning to the fuel, lured by stable prices and a steady domestic supply, he said.

The American Public Transportation Association reports that 51 U.S. transit agencies now operate buses powered by natural gas. Seven of those, including the Los Angeles County MTA, have outfitted their entire fleets with natural gas buses.

On average, compressed natural gas vehicles achieve an 80 percent reduction in ozone-forming emissions, according to the California Energy Commission.

The financial benefits are clear as well, said Hale. Switching to natural gas would save HART 20 percent on its $5 million annual fuel bill. Additionally, natural gas buses get slightly better mileage than their diesel counterparts, 5 mpg vs. 4 mpg, which could further ramp up savings.

Across the bay, Pinellas' transit agency hasn't committed either way to the technology, but TECO representatives will visit PSTA early next month to discuss natural gas.

The agency experimented with a handful of compressed natural gas buses in the late 1990s but scrapped the idea when lower diesel prices negated the cost savings. The agency also had trouble obtaining parts.

"If you have a problem getting parts, you can't run buses," PSTA maintenance chief Jeff Easterling said.

Technology, he said, has since improved, and he's not ruling out the possibility the agency's board might again explore running the vehicles.

"It all depends on the board," he said.

Hillsborough transit agency converting its fleet to natural gas 11/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 26, 2011 12:04am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Man charged with threatening Florida lawmaker on Facebook

    Blogs

    From The Associated Press:

    MIAMI — A Florida man has been charged with threatening to kill a state legislator in a Facebook post. 

    This booking photo released by the Miami-Dade Police Department shows Steve St. Felix, who has been charged with threatening to kill Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in a Facebook post.
  2. Joe Maddon: What my time in Tampa Bay meant, and still means, to me

    The Heater

    Editor's note: The Rays next week in Chicago will meet up for the first time with former manager Joe Maddon, who is in his third year leading the Cubs after nine with the Rays. In advance of the Tuesday-Wednesday series, we asked Maddon to share his thoughts in a column on what his time in Tampa Bay meant to …

    Joe Maddon waits to greet B.J. Upton after Upton's home run in Game 2 of the ALCS in 2008 at Tropicana Field. [Times files (2008)]
  3. First WannaCry, now cyberattack Petya spreads from Russia to Britain

    Business

    Computer systems from Russia to Britain were victims of an international cyberattack Tuesday in a hack that bore similarities to a recent one that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide.

    A computer screen cyberattack warning notice reportedly holding computer files to ransom, as part of a massive international cyberattack, at an office in Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday.  A new and highly virulent outbreak of malicious data-scrambling software appears to be causing mass disruption across Europe.
[Oleg Reshetnyak via AP]
  4. Pinellas sheriff's corporal had racist, sexist, pornographic content on his cell phone

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A Pinellas County sheriff's corporal resigned recently after an investigation into an alleged extramarital affair revealed a trove of racist, sexist and pornographic images on his personal cell phone.

    Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned as a training division corporal from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office after an investigation revealed a trove of offensive images and videos on his phone. This photo was taken as a screenshot from one of the videos released by the Sheriff's Office that Pappas filmed while on duty. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine reflects on the news from the Congressional Budget Office analysis that could imperil GOP leaders' hopes of pushing their health care the plan through the chamber this week, Tuesday, on Capitol Hill in Washington. [AP photo]