Ed Yeates ReportingIf you think gas prices are killing us in our single-family autos, try filling up 600 buses every night. That's why the Utah Transit Authority has decided to downsize to smaller buses.
A 60-foot bus offers plenty of room, perfect for longer heavier used routes. But for smaller runs where fewer people are using buses now, half that size will do.
Averaging only about four miles to the gallon, 600 buses in UTA's fleet are refilled with diesel fuel every night.
George Bryant, UTA Maintenance Manager, Salt Lake: “Here in the Salt Lake business district we’ll pump about 11-thousand gallons of fuel per night. System-wide it’s probably close to about 15-thousand.”
Add that up over a 12 month period. Now we're talking about 5-million gallons of fuel per year. Big buses are still needed on some runs, but with high speed TRAX now channeling thousands of commuters, UTA needs fewer long distance, big bus routes.
Jerry Benson, UTA Chief Performance Officer: "We've been able to shorten a number of routes into smaller circulator type systems, and that allows us to use a smaller vehicle where in the past we needed to have every vehicle able to do everything."
Expect soon to see not 60 foot buses but shorter 30-foot vehicles, which, with a new engine package, could pick up another mile or two per gallon. And UTA will most likely be purchasing more of hybrid electric buses. Picking up an extra one or two gallons may not seem like much, but over the long haul…
Jerry Benson: "If we're using 5-million gallons per year and spending a dollar and a half per gallon, you know - seven and a half million dollars - you save twenty percent of that - it's over a million dollars."
New satellite guidance systems should also improve the design of routes and make it easier for buses to be more on time at each stop.