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MTA goes greener with 850 new hybrid buses

by Benjamin Kabak

The MTA hopes to win a Nobel Prize for its efforts in combating greenhouse gas emissions. (Photo courtesy of flickr user mss2400)

In the spring of 2004, around the time that the global warming/hybrid car craze really took off, for a class about automobiles, I wrote a paper proposing that taxi cabs in New York City should all be converted to hybrids. My argument focused around the economics of gasoline and cab drivers as well as the environmental impact this move would have on New York City.

This was, by no stretch, a very creative argument. With so many cabs patrolling the streets of New York, it made sense to turn these polluting vehicles into greener hybrids. An abridged version of my essay ended up in my ultimately unsuccessful application for the New York City Urban Fellows program, and I like to joke today that my essay kicked off the currently ongoing effort to convert the taxi fleet into one of hybrids.

This was my first real exposure to urban transportation politics, and two and a half years later, Second Ave. Sagas was born. Today, we revisit that original topic: hybrid automobiles. In this case, we’re talking about buses. The MTA announced this week plans to add 850 new hybrid electric buses to the fleet.

“The MTA’s transportation network makes the entire region sustainable and we are committed to making the system itself a sustainable model,” Elliot “Lee” Sander, Executive Director & CEO of the MTA, said. “Along with the sustainable commission that we launched this fall, the continuing purchase of environmentally-friendly vehicles illustrates this commitment.”

In effect, this new purchase is a contract extension of a 2005 deal between the MTA and Daimler AG. The original deal between the transportation authority and the German auto maker called for 500 buses, 284 of which were to go to MTA Bus and the other 216 to New York City Transit. The MTA picked up a 389-bus option on that contract and negotiated a 461-bus extension. No word if Daimler AG was insulted when the MTA wanted to add a World Series incentive to the contract.

This new order allows for NYCT to take on most of the new buses. Of the 850, 105 of them will go to MTA Bus. The other 745 will end up in the hands of New York City Transit. According to the MTA, these buses will be employed to meet ridership and equipment demands brought about by Bus Rapid Transit lanes. Hallelujah.

“The ability of being able to expand our fleet will help us to increase capacity as we look forward to the implementation of Bus Rapid Transit,” NYCT President Howard Roberts said.

I, of course, love this idea. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the MTA is, by virtue of its public transportation mission, is a green organization looking to go greener. Its trains use energy-conserving breaks similar to those found in hybrid cars, and now the Authority is adding a whole fleet of green buses.

I – and Al Gore – wholeheartedly support this move. More hybrids for everyone.

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