No electric city buses in plans, for now |

No electric city buses in plans, for now

Aspen’s most outspoken advocate of electric buses has suggested the city forget about converting the entire Roaring Fork Transit Agency fleet and just concentrate on the routes around town.

But the City Council seems set on trying a less experimental approach, for now.

Raymond Auger told the council Monday that, in his opinion, city routes are more appropriate for electric buses anyway, and that they would be much cheaper than the “hybrid” buses that RFTA is thinking about buying.

“A hybrid bus is a fuel-burning bus,” Auger said in critical tones at the council’s informal brown-bag luncheon meeting yesterday. All-electric buses cause “absolutely no pollution” and are, thus, far better for the environment than ordinary diesel buses, he said.

Auger has been studying the prospect of converting RFTA’s aging diesel buses, which anger some residents when they ply the city streets noisily, belching diesel smoke.

Among the possibilities he has discussed with the City Council and RFTA are the “hybrid” buses, which run off electricity, but include a fuel-driven generator that recharges the batteries as needed.

But, Auger told the council, in the long run, electric buses would serve the city much better than even the hybrids. He said manufacturers are experimenting with lighter, more efficient batteries that have longer ranges of travel than has been the case up until now. And, he said, they are already being used in other cities around the United States.

“The buses are out there … the systems have been successfully used in cities,” he declared. “We’ve been out front on smoking [a reference to Aspen’s ground-breaking restrictions on smoking in public places] … we ought to be in the vanguard with electric buses.”

But Mayor Rachel Richards rejected the idea, noting that the city had already directed RFTA to buy a couple of the hybrid buses for city routes. The city should not undermine RFTA by setting up a competing mass-transit system, she added.

Councilman Tom McCabe noted that the hybrids have “a pretty good track record” and will fill the city’s current needs, while conceding that electric buses “are the way to go” in the future.

Attempts to reach RFTA officials on Monday were unsuccessful.

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