Thirty-two compressed natural gas buses will be delivered in lots of 11 vehicles in the next 18-24 months to the Mass Transportation Authority (MTA) of Genesee County and were made possible by a federal and state grant. Ed Benning, general manager and chief executive officer of the local MTA said the agency was extremely appreciative to be able to receive one of the largest grants under the bus and bus facilities FAST Act funding. He said the new buses will be much cleaner for the environment and the community. He also said the buses have been attracting the curiosity of others across the United States, along with other services MTA offers.
“We are very excited about the new buses and what this means with the addition of alternative fuel vehicles to our fleet, and also what they will mean to the daily operation of the MTA,” said Benning. “It has been necessary for us in the past to spend $25,000 to $40,000 per month to purchase replacement parts for our aged fleet. Now, with the new buses, we will be able to avoid those costs and we will be able to put more money into providing the continuing need for services in our community.”
Benning said the FAST Act legislation, that was signed into law by President Obama in December 2015, paved the way for the agency to receive funding for bus and bus facility replacement for the first time in several years. He said many people helped make the grant possible. Congressman Dan Kildee took steps to meet with the Secretary of Transportation and his staff to discuss the urgent need for new vehicles for the Flint Mass Transportation Authority.
Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and their staff worked closely with MTA to follow the process through the grant application and follow up. The actual grant at the federal level was $12.8 million, but with the 20% state portion it puts the total grant over $15 million.
The $15 million grant award comes through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) which is where the actual award is announced. The FTA, as an organization, administers the grant funds for MTA to move ahead and purchase these new vehicles.
Benning said MTA is extremely pleased with the progress that this will allow them to make in moving forward towards becoming a 100% alternative fuel fleet and to the elimination of diesel powered vehicles, with the uncertainty of fossil fuel products in the future.
“The purchase of these new compressed natural gas vehicles puts the MTA at 80% of our 100% goal to eliminate all diesel-powered vehicles,” he said. “At this time, we are working on other funding possibilities to replace the last 20% of the fleet; we hope to have the total conversion completed within the next five years.”
The alternative fuel fleet will be comprised of 60% propane powered vehicles, 35% compressed natural gas vehicles and 5% of the fleet will be dedicated to hydrogen or other test type vehicles, including electric, which will be tested for future use.
The alternative fuel fleet will be utilized throughout Genesee County with the current fixed route transit coaches and all Your Ride vehicles. The new compressed natural gas commuter buses will be used on the MTA Regional Service that will operate 25–30 routes that go into eight adjoining counties, transporting residents of Flint and Genesee County to job opportunities in these outlying areas.
MTA has also been working on a plan that will allow them to expand the Grand Blanc Alternative Fuel Facility, with additional capacity for fueling compressed natural gas vehicles and to also open up a portion of the facility to other businesses and the public.
These efforts have been in the works for a number of months and are on the final phase of what MTA hopes will become a partnership with Consumers Energy. Consumers Energy will utilize some consent decree monies to build the new expansion fueling facility.
MTA is considered to be a cuttingedge organization, and has received numerous awards for the use of alternative fuel vehicles, as well as their delivery of services.
“We appreciate the continued support of the residents of Genesee County and we are pleased to report that we are providing some of the highest level of transportation services found in the Midwest,” said Benning. “We are asked on a regular basis to give presentations about the new innovative approaches that the MTA is using.”