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‘Green’ buses set to arrive

Natural gas vehicles brings the city’s municipal fleet up to 20% alternatively fueled vehicles.

August 29, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

CITY HALL — Five new compressed natural gas buses will roll onto city streets in the coming weeks, each serving as the latest example of Burbank’s effort to “green” its fleet, transportation officials said.

The 30-seat buses, each with a price tag of about $395,000, bring the city’s number of alternatively fueled vehicles to 101, or about 20% of its municipal fleet, including compressed natural gas, hybrid and hydrogen technologies, said Ari Omessi, assistant Public Works director of fleet and building.

The newest buses were paid for with a mix of city and grant funds.

“We’re one of the cleanest cities out there,” he said. “And it’s genuine. We purchased [compressed natural gas] vehicles and put in a refueling station long before it was [politically correct.]”

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To support its green quest, as well as the aspirations of private companies and neighboring Glendale, the city six years ago opened a public natural gas station at 810 N. Lake St., paid for with $600,000 in state grants and $200,000 from ENRG, the company originally contracted to operate and maintain the station for 10 years.

A demonstration hydrogen fueling station is at the city yard at 124 S. Lake St.

Sustainability, a long-standing goal for the City Council, has manifested itself in the city’s range of public transit options, with every resident living within a 1 1/2 -mile radius of a public park or recreational open space.

Now, the foremost issue must be transportation, said Ron Davis, general manager of Burbank Water and Power.

“This has been something society struggled with for decades, and probably our biggest emerging challenge,” Davis said.

Adding to its green fleet, the city is preparing to unveil a 35-foot-long hydrogen-hybrid fuel cell bus at a cost of $2 million, $1.4 million of which is funded through the Alternative Fuel Incentive Program.

Omessi said it would be difficult to capture the amount of gasoline and diesel usage diverted, but said even with the increased upfront cost of alternatively fueled vehicles, the long-term savings is clear.

Public Works’ fleet services division has adopted several recycling and purchasing practices, including buying oil and hydraulic fuels with recycled components, capturing and recycling all of its waste oils and coolants and applying biodegradable cleaning products, he said.

New technology, such as the hydrogen bus, eliminate the need for oil changes, as well as engine and transmission rebuilds.

City efforts are also manifested in the private sector, said Terre Hirsch, assistant community development director and administrator of license and code services.

The city’s largest taxicab provider recently sent Hirsch a letter pledging to voluntarily replace its fleet with ultra-low-emission vehicles as old ones are taken out of service.

Already nearly 50% of its fleet is made up of low-emission vehicles, and competitor United Taxi of the Southwest is entirely hybrid.

“It’s just a whole process — this isn’t a fad,” Omessi said. “This is reality, and we’re all going there, looking at the big picture.”


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