City looking at plan for 2 diesel/electric buses |

City looking at plan for 2 diesel/electric buses

Aspen Times Staff Report

Replacing Aspen’s two Galena Street Shuttle vehicles with a pair of hybrid diesel/electric buses would cost as much as $500,000 – a price tag that gave the City Council cause for pause yesterday.

The city is exploring the environmentally friendly buses, made by a Chattanooga, Tenn., bus company called AVS, for the Galena Street route. The shuttle runs in the summer and winter seasons, using a familiar red and white vehicle that looks little like a bus.

AVS is willing to provide what it calls the Aspen Tram to replace the shuttle. The 22-foot-long, 14-passenger vehicle features a doorless entry and open-air windows during the summer, just like the shuttle, but it more closely resembles a bus.

It would cost $200,000 apiece, plus other equipment needed to maintain the batteries, according to Kenny Osier, director of maintenance for the Roaring Fork Transit Agency. Altogether, the purchase of two vehicles would cost $450,000 to $500,000, he estimated.

Replacing the existing shuttles with vehicles like the ones used now would cost $120,000 to $140,000, said Randy Ready, assistant city manager.

The new vehicles use diesel power to run a turbine that powers a generator, reducing pollutants and offering a quiet ride, according to AVS.

“It’s still somewhat closer to experimental technology,” Osier said. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending this purchase without some city people going and looking at it.”

On the other hand, said Osier, the hybrid buses may make more sense than a pure electric bus, which the city experimented with this summer on the Music Tent route. That bus required battery recharging, making its continuous use out of the question, he said.

“In the overall scheme of things, if somebody said, ‘Is it realistic for the city to go to electric vehicles?’ I would say no,” Osier said.

The experimental electric bus, which the city has leased for two years, will be back on the streets next summer, according to Ready.

Mayor Rachel Richards suggested asking the bus manufacturer if it would be willing to lease Aspen the hybrid vehicles so the city could try them out without committing to their purchase.

Part of the Galena Street Shuttle’s success, Richards noted, is that it doesn’t look like a bus. It’s fun, she said, to hop on it for a few blocks.

“This looks more like a bus. Would it attract the same sort of ridership?” she said.

If the city wants to order the new buses, it will have to do so soon in order to have them on the streets next summer, Osier said.

The council, meeting at its informal lunch session, made no decision but appeared to agree the hybrid buses are worth further research.

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