‘Clean’ bus grant purchase gets nod for $2 million



The Key West City Commission gave the go-ahead at its March 4 meeting to spend almost $2 million in grant money to purchase four new, environmentally friendly buses.

The effort comes at the same time the city is considering limiting full-size buses in the downtown area in favor of an open-air tram shuttle system.

The $1.99 million purchase will be paid for entirely with state and federal funds and is part of a five-year tentative plan to replace 10 of the city’s 17 public buses. Three of the new buses will be clean diesel, low sulfur-emitting vehicles, while the fourth will be what Key West City Manager Bob Vitas a called “super green” hybrid bus.

Asked why the city, which has a commitment to lower its greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2015 didn’t purchase all hybrid buses, Vitas said the lower emission bus cost approximately $200,000 more than the clean diesel vehicles.

“They’re all green. One is super green. We could not afford to replace of them with the super green buses,” he said.

“A hybrid-only purchase would almost halve the number of reliable buses the city would be able to put on the road, jeopardizing service and, therefore, ridership,” said Norman Whitaker, the city’s transit director, in a report.

Whitaker said the non-hybrid clean diesel buses have an emission rate 75 percent below the city buses they are replacing.

Vitas said he is also exploring the use of off-peak shuttle buses, possibly open air trams, in the downtown area extending to White Street.

“It would keep larger buses out of downtown and it’s more fuel efficient. We’re seriously starting to study that,” he said.

The shuttle buses would transfer passengers to a depot along White Street where they could change to a larger bus that would continue existing bus routes up to Marathon.



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