Clearing the Air on Hybrid Buses
March 2, 2009 12:59 PM
I thought it was motherhood and apple pie. Who doesn't like our new hybrid buses? They go easier on fuel, they're quiet and they're cool looking. But when I talked about Madison Metro's proposal to use Federal stimulus money to buy 18 new hybrid buses to add to our fleet of five, some of my mail and letters to the editor indicated a lot of misunderstanding about it. So I want to clear that up.
First, there is no relationship between the recently passed fare increase and the hybrids. Unfortunately, the two stories happened at about the same time and so it's understandable that some readers connected the two. To be clear, the hybrids would be purchased with Federal stimulus money that must go for new transit capital projects. The Federal rules do not allow the money to be used for operating expenses or even to displace currently planned capital purchases.
Second, some people got the impression that buying hybrids was all we were going to do with the stimulus money. Actually, this is just one part of what will be an extensive plan. I've asked every city agency with potential for stimulus money to put together a plan for its use. The comptroller is coordinating that and we should have an extensive list out later this week.
Third, some have raised questions about how purchase of hybrids will stimulate the economy. That's an easy answer.
The hybrids are built in Indiana and, of course, the Midwest economy is filled with suppliers for vehicle production. When you also consider that many other communities will be ordering more hybrids, the ripple effect for employers throughout the Midwest could be significant.
Then there's the issue of fuel efficiency. Our experience so far is that on some routes hybrids get 30% better mileage. Weaning ourselves from dependence on foreign oil is an important part of a transformative economic recovery.
And finally, Dane County is close to being a non-attainment area for air quality under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. Anything we can do to keep our air cleaner means we are less likely to go back over the limit. That means we can avoid EPA prescriptions that could hold back our economic growth.