RFTA exploring `cleaner’ buses | AspenTimes.com

RFTA exploring `cleaner’ buses

Depending on the outcome of a federal grant request, Aspen may soon join the ranks of cities that run cleaner-burning, alternative-fuel buses.

In a City Council work session Monday, three agencies were directed to study the feasibility of alternative-fuel transportation such as electric or natural gas buses.

But while the Roaring Fork Transit Agency, the Clean Air Board and the Community Office for Resource Efficiency look into the matter, federal money could put theory to practice by late next year.

If a $5 million federal grant is awarded to RFTA, five natural gas buses could hit city streets by the end of 2000. But the chances of that are pretty slim, said Dan Blankenship, RFTA general manager.

The full grant application seeks funding for natural gas fueling and maintenance facilities, five natural gas buses, and the replacement of 17 diesel buses with 12 cleaner-burning diesel buses. But if anything less than $5 million is allotted, choices will have to be made, Blankenship said.

One option is replacing as many traditional diesel-burning buses with clean diesel-burning buses as RFTA can.

Another choice is building the infrastructure for natural gas buses, at $1.14 million, and hoping that future funds come through for more natural gas buses at a later date. Each natural gas bus costs some $40,000 to $60,000 more than its diesel-burning counterpart.

On a yearly basis, each natural gas bus produces about 25 tons less carbon dioxide than a traditional diesel bus, according to CORE. But newer clean diesel buses emit between 65 to 80 percent fewer pollutants than older diesel vehicles, Blankenship said.

Currently RFTA’s fleet includes 43 clean diesel buses, 37 traditional diesel buses and 10 traditional gas vehicles.

“If the funding comes in, we think alternative fuel is a great idea,” Blankenship said. “But if choices have to be made, the RFTA board will have to decide whether to go for the sure thing or move toward a less certain option, build the facilities and hope future grants come in.”

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