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Greener buses hitting area streets

Intercity Transit coach technician William Snyder runs an electronic diagnostic scan Monday on one of  six hybrid buses as the  full-sized buses are prepared for fleet service over the next week, with one already on the road.
Intercity Transit coach technician William Snyder runs an electronic diagnostic scan Monday on one of six hybrid buses as the full-sized buses are prepared for fleet service over the next week, with one already on the road. The Olympian

OLYMPIA - Six hybrid buses fueled by biodiesel and electricity are joining the Intercity Transit bus fleet this month.

The first of the more fuel-efficient buses hit the streets Friday, and the remaining five could be in service within a week, IT marketing and communications director Meg Kester said.

The total cost of the six hybrid buses, including tax, is $3.7 million. The public transportation agency serving Thurston County paid for the buses with $2.3 million in federal stimulus money, nearly $751,000 in other federal funds and about $575,000 in transit authority capital funds.

The buses replace others that went into service in 1996 – the oldest in IT’s 68-bus fleet. They are expected to save about 25 percent on fuel costs, although fuel economy for the first one placed in service was only about 11 percent better during its first 18 hours of operation.

The new buses are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cause less wear and tear on the engine and brake parts, said Karl Shenkel, IT acting maintenance director.

The hybrid buses, which cost about $180,000 more per vehicle than a diesel-fueled bus, are also expected to provide a quieter, smoother ride with fewer diesel odors.

Intercity Transit officials have had their eyes on hybrid buses since 2004 when they first tested them and found them to perform well.

The region’s congressional delegation helped secure the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds that made the purchases possible, noted Sandra Romero, chair of the Intercity Transit board of directors and a Thurston County commissioner.

“Use of hybrid buses is one more way Intercity Transit and the public transportation industry can act as environmental stewards,” Romero said.

People can identify the IT hybrid buses by their green domed roof and exterior markings.

The first bus debuted on routes 41 and 13, traveling between west Olympia, The Evergreen State College, downtown Olympia and Tumwater.

In the weeks ahead, they should become fixtures on several routes between Yelm, Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater in the express route to and from Tacoma on Interstate 5.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444 jdodge@theolympian.com

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