Putting in a station near the FAA headquarters was an easy decision to make, which helped make the local FAA staff very receptive to helping The T get their project underway.
“Yes, we’re going to put in a station. Now we can’t put it right at their headquarters, but its within a half a mile or so,” Ruddell says.
“But that’s going pretty well. And I think we got good support from FAA to make this happen.”
When I asked about their bus fleet, Ruddell was quick to point out that it is 100 percent compressed natural gas-powered (CNG). He says the agency is very proud of that fact.
“These are the first CNG buses I’ve ever operated. Before this it was all diesel,” Ruddell says.
“In Kansas in Topeka, in Ohio in Toledo, that was all I ever knew — diesel. And all I ever knew was dealing with complaints about smoking buses, and pushing maintenance to change the injectors and get them cleaned up and what kind of fuel, cleaner lower sulfur diesel.
“So I get here and there’s no smoke. These buses don’t smoke. They are the cleanest things you can just … it’s unbelievable. There are no smoking buses here. There’s no smoke.
“And if you are familiar with fully diesel-powered bus fleets you can’t imagine the difference. You just can’t. You don’t smell any diesel. You don’t see any smoke.”
Ruddell says within Fort Worth the image of the smoking transit bus has vanished in a puff of CNG. In fact, city and businesses have quickly gotten onboard to help promote the idea of The T’s CNG buses. Of course, there are other alternative fuel options, but Ruddell says it comes down to price.
“Here’s my problem with the hybrids. I think the hybrids are great. And they do a lot for air pollution and they do a lot, not the CNG hybrid, just the diesel hybrid of helping transit systems find some alternatives besides just a straight diesel — but they’re expensive,” Ruddell says.
“They are expensive. And you can talk about it all you want, but when you get down to ordering buses, you still are trying to find the most number of buses for the amount of money you got. Whatever it is, it’s still a limit.
“You only got so much money to put into them. You got some kind of a limit whether it’s from the state or the feds or your local money or whatever, you got a limit.”
Setting a Standard
To help drop the costs of buses, Ruddell says he is very supportive of a standard bus for the United States. Ruddell says after operating buses in four different cities in three different states despite the differences the industry could live with a standard design.
“I am very convinced that we could have a standard bus in this country aside from some basic things like you do have to decide whether you’re going to have diesel or CNG or hybrid or what kind of power you’re going to have,” Ruddell says.
“But other than a few big things like that, it would be the same bus, made up the same way, the same kind of head signs for everybody, the same kind of stop announcements for everybody, the same number of cameras in the bus for everybody. You could easily do that and everybody would learn to live with it like that,” he says with a snap of his fingers.
“They would be over that in a year. Everybody would forget about the kind we used to ride on our own specs. We just use the basic spec. And it would make the vehicles a lot cheaper,” Ruddell says.
“But we got to get there. But I’m a big proponent of that because I believe that could be done very easily. And I don’t care whether you’re a bus passenger in NY or LA or FW or Topeka they’d all learn to live with the same vehicle and it would work very well.
With my publisher being a triathlete he was very pleased to see Dick Ruddell holding a bike on our cover this month. And I was told that Ruddell was adamant about being pictured with one. An avid cyclist, he is determined to make it another mode in The T’s transit system.
“I like to bicycle and I like to promote bicycle riding both for the health aspects of it as well as the transportation aspects,” Ruddell says.
“Every bus has bicycle racks on it. We allow and promote bicycles on the Trinity Railway Express [the commuter rail line between Dallas and Fort Worth The T co-operates with DART]. So you can use your bike there.