It is very difficult to look at Transit’s future without thinking in terms of sustainability, energy independence, congestion, air quality issues and yes, at the risk of sounding cliché, global warming.
While the promise of hydrogen as a main stream fuel remains slightly elusive, it remains the fuel of the future, and continued research, development and hard work will, no doubt, bring about the fulfillment of the promise.
In the near term, however, stepping stones will continue to help us bridge that gap to the hydrogen future. Familiar fuels like CNG and LNG will work shoulder-to-shoulder with emerging technologies and fuels such as biodiesel, hybrid electric, hybrid hydraulic, as well as pure electric vehicles in helping us build a sustainable future free of dependence on petroleum based fuels and the resulting depletion of natural resources and the accompanying air quality issues.
Proactive efforts by early adopters will continue to play an invaluable role in accelerating the development of these technologies and bringing about their commercial viability.
As these technologies make their way into original equipment manufacturers, and transit fleets begin the process of changing the complexion of their fleets we will start to see an acceleration of clean air benefits, and as demand grows, an acceleration of commercial viability.
The dynamics of congestion mitigation, air quality improvements and the need for renewable energy sources position public transit for continued growth in prominence and ridership as the public’s awareness of their vital role in achieving these goals.
Positive signs can already be seen with steady increases in transit ridership across a broad cross section of systems throughout the country, an increasing emphasis on transit-oriented housing communities, the growing popularity of bus rapid transit and commuter express service highlighted by the trend towards amenities like WiFi for Internet access, reclining seats and express service, all aimed at getting a broader cross section of commuters out of their cars.
The combination of clean fueled buses, populated by passengers who have parked their cars provides a powerful impact on clean air goals and congestion mitigation, and in our opinion, further establishes public transit as a dominant force in securing a sustainable and clean planet for our children and grandchildren.
Dale E. Carson is president of Complete Coach Works and BLUE BIRD Coachworks. With nearly 40 years of service to the transit industry and more than 20 years as president and CEO of Complete Coach Works, Dale is especially proud of Complete Coach Works contribution to clean air initiatives with pioneering work in the areas of CNG and LNG and hybrid retrofits to existing fleets.