August 2003 Clean Bus Update

The Clean Bus Update is a monthly periodical providing an overview of current program and policy activities related to the deployment of low-polluting, energy efficient buses. Topics include technology developments, clean vehicle deployment, energy consumption, the environment, government policy, and public health. The National Clean Bus Network is an informal coalition of public and private sector organizations working to increase the use of cleaner bus technologies. The Clean Bus Network is a free resource to all clean bus stakeholders. Please feel free to email Ray Minjares at [email protected] with questions, comments or suggestions. You may also visit our website at


Transportation Costs and the American Dream

Inequitable Effects of Transportation Policies on Disadvantaged Groups

Bus Rapid Transit Case Study Report

Hybrid Bus Market Making Gains

Senate Energy Bill Moves Into Conference with some Clean Bus Provisions

House Appropriations Diverts Clean Fuels and Cuts Other Transit Funding Programs

Senate and House Fail to Pass TEA-21 Reauthorization Bill Before August Recess

USDA Solicits Bid for a National Biodiesel Education Program

Public Comments Concluded for Off-Road Diesel Emissions Rules

STPP Report Links Transportation and Air Quality


Transportation Costs and the American Dream


In a July report entitled "Transportation Costs and the American Dream," the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP) found that in 2001 the average American household devoted 19.3 percent of every dollar spent to transportation. This is more than three times what Americans spend on health care and second only to housing expenditures. Owning and operating a car makes up 95 percent of these costs. The poorest 20 percent of American households spend a disproportionate amount on transportation, giving an average of 40.2 percent of their income. The report recognizes that to reduce transportation expenditures, Americans will need to grow less dependent on personal automobiles. It recommends changes in the nature of public investment and development patterns to encourage more transportation options. This includes less sprawling development and more investment in public transit and other choices.


The report is available online at


Inequitable Effects of Transportation Policies on Disadvantaged Groups


The Center for Community Change and the Harvard Civil Rights Project released a June report to highlight the effects of transportation policies on minority and low-income communities. "Moving to Equity: Addressing Inequitable Effects of Transportation Policies on Minorities" takes a look at the history of transportation policy in the United States, the demography of transportation, and the effects of government policies on transportation costs, quality of life, and access to opportunities. The report finds that federal, state, and local transportation policies emphasizing highway construction have led to dependency on automobiles and rising transportation costs, which have a direct effect on disadvantaged communities by making it difficult for them to access transportation to various places. The federal government, along with state and local governments, fund construction of highway and public transit systems, but it does so disproportionately. Low income and minority communities have higher rates of using public transportation and lower rates of owning a car, but the federal government funds construction of public transportation at one-fourth the level it funds highway construction. Bus transportation is an important component of public transit in the United States, providing nearly two thirds of public transit service. The report finds that more individuals with low incomes rely on bus service while more high-income individuals rely on rail service. It also links urban pollution in poor and minority neighborhoods to transportation policies that favor highway development over public transportation in these areas. In the United States, higher percentages of African Americans and Latinos live in areas with substandard air quality.


A copy of the report, along with policy recommendations it makes for TEA-21 reauthorization, can be found online at Harvard University.

Visit the Center for Community Change website at


Transportation Research Board (TCRB) Bus Rapid Transit Report #90


The Transportation Research Board in cooperation with the Federal Transit Administration has made available a report of 26 case studies of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Systems. Volume 1 takes a look at examples of BRT systems on several continents. Volume 2  provides implementation guidelines for policymakers, system managers and transportation planners. At an EESI briefing on Bus Rapid Transit in June, Sam Zimmerman, Principal for Transportation Planning for DMJM+Harris and one of the report's authors, presented some of the report's findings. BRT is a cost-effective option for improving the speed, capacity and image of traditional bus service, providing transit planners another option to reduce congestion, improve air quality and support community development.


Mr. Zimmerman's presentation and other BRT presentations are available under the Briefings section at

You can register to receive copies of the TCRB report at TCRP Online.


Hybrid Bus Market Making Gains


With MTA New York City Transit taking the lead to demonstrate and deploy the nation's largest hybrid bus fleet, the agency has purchased 325 Orion VII/BAE hybrid-electric transit buses for delivery this year and next year. This model achieves a 99 percent particulate matter reduction, a 44 percent nitrogen oxide reduction and a 33 percent carbon dioxide reduction over conventional diesel models. Fuel economy increases 16 percent, due in large part to regenerative braking technology integrated into the hybrid system. The large emission cuts are due in part to after-treatment filters and traps fitted on the buses used in combination with low-sulfur diesel fuel. Transit operators must use low-sulfur diesel in buses fitted with after-treatment devices because the higher sulfur content of conventional diesel makes these inoperable.


Other transit agencies are taking notice of these benefits and negotiating large purchases of hybrid buses for their own fleets. According to the July 28th issue of Fleets and Fuels Newsletter, Sound Transit and King County Metro (serving downtown Seattle, WA and surrounding areas) are negotiating the delivery of up to 235 diesel-powered hybrid-electric buses beginning late next year. King County Metro plans to operate articulated hybrid-electric buses under downtown Seattle's 1.3 mile urban bus tunnel, where the buses will be able to idle with the engine turned off. Articulated buses carry more passengers and are identifiable by the accordion-like structure at their middle.


Hybrid-electric drive systems on transit buses improve fuel economy, reduce emissions, and lower operating costs. This technology uses an electric motor to fully or partially drive the vehicle forward. It is flexible to use with any energy source or fuel, including gasoline, hydrogen, propane, biodiesel and natural gas. Combining these fuels and technologies can help local air quality officials and state agencies to meet more stringent EPA and California EPA air quality standards. As operators deploy less-polluting transit buses, the public will benefit from cleaner air, transit agencies will benefit from lower long-term costs and a cleaner image, and the nation will benefit from reduced petroleum dependence and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.


Continuing the pattern, the City of Long Beach, CA in April authorized the purchase of 27 gasoline-powered hybrid-electric buses with the option to purchase over one hundred buses over the next four years. Over a half dozen other California transit agencies have expressed interest in this model.


In April 2002, New Jersey Transit partnered with ISE Research of San Diego, CA to demonstrate and deploy three hybrid-electric transit buses. In June of this year, New Jersey Transit unveiled the first of these. With the hybrid-electric propulsion system installed, the buses achieve a fuel economy of 6.0 to 7.0 miles per gallon in urban transit service. Over a year these models will save the transit operator at least $10,000 in operating costs while reducing petroleum demand and releasing fewer emissions. New Jersey Transit has tested a variety of cleaner burning fuels, including biodiesel and compressed natural gas. They currently operate 100 percent of their buses with low-sulfur diesel and have accessed Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) money to fund bus retrofits.


Visit the DOE Advanced Vehicle Testing website at

Visit Fleets and Fuels Newsletter at Fleets and Fuels.

Visit ISE Research Website at ISE Corp.


Senate Energy Bill Moves Into Conference with Some Clean Bus Provisions


On Thursday, July 31, the Senate in a surprise move voted to drop a version of the energy bill it had been working on since January, and adopt the energy bill developed under Democratic leadership last year. Sen. Dominici (R-NM), Chair of the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee, was under pressure from the White House and Republican leadership to pass legislation, but faced delays from more than 300 amendments. By a vote of 84-14 the bill adopted last year will now head to a conference between the houses. It includes clean bus provisions to establish a clean school bus deployment program; to undertake a clean bus deployment study establishing costs, benefits and reasonable timeframes; to provide tax credits for the purchase (or sale)  of cleaner vehicles, refueling infrastructure and  cleaner fuel; to study idle-reduction technologies; to develop cleaner diesel technologies to meet Tier II emissions standards by 2010; to undergo more hybrid-electric and fuel cell vehicle research; to provide a temporary expansion of the biodiesel EPACT credit; and to provide double EPACT credits for medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fleet purchases. Republican leadership has promised to make significant changes during conference negotiations to re-integrate provisions they favor that are not in the current bill.


For a description of Senate energy bill provisions, visit the publications tab of the EESI website or go to


House Appropriations Committee Diverts Clean Fuels and Cuts Other Transit Funding Programs


On Thursday, July 24th, the House Appropriations Committee considered the Fiscal Year 2004 Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies Appropriations Bill, which funds the Federal Transit Administration, Amtrak, and other surface transportation projects and programs. In a blow to energy conservation, clean air and public transit advocates, the bill will fail to grow public transit, cutting it instead by $100 million over FY03 guaranteed spending levels, but increase funding for highways by $5.5 billion or almost 20 percent. Clean air and energy conservation advocates favor transit projects over highway projects because they support transportation service that consumes less energy, produces fewer emissions and costs less per passenger mile traveled than personal transportation. New Starts funding (for light and heavy rail projects) will remain at the $1.2 billion guaranteed FY03 level; while Amtrak, the Job Access Reverse Commute Program (which provides low incomes communities with transportation to jobs) and the Transportation Enhancements Programs will suffer funding cuts. The committee voted to divert for the sixth consecutive year funding for the Clean Fuels "Clean Bus" Formula Grant Program to other areas. Fifty million dollars will instead go to the Bus Capital Grants Program, which transit agencies can use for purchases of any bus design, including buses powered by clean fuels and technologies. Policymakers have expressed little support to continue the Clean Fuels Program in its current form, but a more modified, simplified version has garnered some attention. Congressional staff are looking at restructuring the current program, and may consider including this in the upcoming reauthorization bill of TEA-21, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.


For more information, contact Ray Minjares at 202-662-1883 or by email at [email protected]


Senate and House Fail to Move TEA-21 Reauthorization Before the August Recess


Working to achieve a compromise on funding mechanisms for the TEA-21 reauthorization bill, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee along with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee failed to consider legislation before leaving for the August recess. During the months of June and July, Republican leadership called for completion of a bill before leaving town, but Medicare reform, the energy bill, and transportation appropriations took priority. More importantly, a fundamental compromise on mechanisms to increase transportation funding is still on hold. TEA-21 will expire September 30th, and both Senate and House committees plan to take up the bill during that month, but appropriations bills will likely take priority. Congress will likely extend current legislation for a period of 90 to 180 days beyond its expiration date to give itself time to continue discussions.


For updates on TEA-21 reauthorization, visit TEA-21.


USDA Solicits Bids for a National Biodiesel Education Program


On July 18, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Anne Veneman announced the availability of $920,000 in grants to conduct a biodiesel fuel education program. Biodiesel is a renewable fuel derived from vegetable oils, waste greases and animal fats. Used in conventional diesel engines, it can reduce emissions of particulate matter by almost 50 percent, and reduce carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions by almost 70 percent. The intent of the program is to educate government and private vehicle fleets about the benefits of biodiesel, thereby increasing demand for this renewable fuel. A maximum of two grant awards will be made to either non-profit organizations or institutions of higher education. The final submission date for proposals was August 14th.


Here is a link to the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program RFA as it appears in the Federal Register

 Here is a link to the administrative provisions as they appear in the Federal Register


Public Comments Concluded for Off-Road Diesel Emissions Rules


Wednesday, August 20th was the final day for submitting public comments to EPA on proposed rules to reduce diesel emissions from construction, farming and other off-road diesel-powered equipment. EPA proposes new certification standards for diesel equipment to apply beginning in 2008. The proposal would also require the reduction of sulfur content in diesel fuel from 3,400 parts per million (ppm) to a maximum 500 ppm starting in 2007, then would reduce this limit to 15 ppm by 2010. Low-sulfur fuel will enable diesel equipment manufacturers  to meet new emission standards using high efficiency emission control devices that suffer performance failures with high-sulfur fuel. In 2001, the EPA published similar rules affecting on-road diesel vehicles including trucks and buses.


Details of the EPA proposal can be found online by visiting


STPP Report Links Transportation and Air Quality


A study released August 19th by the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP) concludes that transportation is a major contributor to air pollution nationwide, but that transportation alternatives like transit, biking and walking are not receiving the protection and support they need from Congress to help reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. The report includes state fact sheets that rank cities with the worst air pollution and the prevalence of asthma in these areas. Lawmakers will soon vote on legislation that will reduce the frequency with which transportation plans must be reviewed for their air quality impacts. The report provides recommendations to maintain and improve consideration of the air quality impacts of transportation plans and projects.


You can find the report online at

The Clean Bus Update was written by Ray Minjares and edited by Linda Wood. For questions or comments about this newsletter or any of the topics it covers, please email [email protected].