June 24--Marin transit officials want to buy 11 hybrid buses for $7.9 million as long as state clean air officials waive a new emissions monitoring requirement.
The seven 40-foot and four 30-foot diesel hybrid electric vehicles would replace 11 aging buses now in the Marin transit fleet. Federal and state funds would pick up most of the tab -- $724,000 for each 40-foot hybrid, and $708,000 for each 30-foot hybrid.
The new buses are expected to provide a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy and 75 percent fewer emissions than standard diesel vehicles, according to Lauren Gradia, head of finance and capital programs for the Marin Transit District. The district is governed by the Board of Supervisors and two elected members appointed by the Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers.
But the deal hinges on a green light from the California Air Resources Board, which has issued new regulations for hybrid buses that include an on-board diagnostic system that monitors emissions. The requirement is stricter than federal regulations, which do not require such equipment until 2017.
Because manufacturers may not provide the systems until federal rules kick in, Marin's bus purchase must wait for them to proceed with production -- or an exemption from the requirement. Engine manufacturers "may choose to forgo sales in California and work towards meeting the Environmental Protection Agency's 2017 deadline," Gradia said.
Transit officials asked the air board to waive the on-board diagnostic system requirement, as they did last year, to allow purchase of hybrid buses to proceed. Because buses in the existing fleet are "beyond their useful life," the alternative is considering regular diesel vehicles that are not as efficient or as environmentally friendly, Gradia said.
Supervisor Kate Sears said she was "appalled" that manufacturers were waiting for federal rules to take effect before proceeding with more efficient vehicles.
Supervisor Steve Kinsey noted that seeking a waiver from on-board diagnostic system rules would enable the district to get electric hybrid buses instead of diesel vehicles. "Our motivation is a significant improvement in fuel efficiency and our overall climate change goals," he said. Supervisors Susan Adams and Katie Rice were absent.
The Marin district operates a fleet of 44 diesel buses, seven diesel hybrid electric buses, 17 gasoline shuttles and 43 gasoline paratransit vehicles.
Copyright 2014 - The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.