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PSTA makes major addition to hybrid bus fleet

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Thirteen new hybrid-electric buses have begun to arrive at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority‘s North St. Petersburg headquarters.

“Smartbuses,” as they’re called, will be replacing the 13 oldest diesel buses now used by the PSTA. The new addition brings the PSTA hybrid-bus-count up to 61, which equates to 30 percent of the entire Pinellas County public bus fleet — which is valued at more than $37 million.

“This is the healthiest fleet we have ever had,” said Henry Lukasik, PSTA Director of Maintenance, via press release. “We are really focused on our customers and making sure that they always have a reliable, safe, and environmentally friendly bus at their disposal.”

Environmentally friendly, they are. These Smartbuses have significantly reduced particulate emissions (soot), and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, including a 50 percent reduction — compared to traditional diesel buses — in nitrogen oxides, which can create smog and deplete ground level ozone.

The Smartbuses are also quieter and more fuel-efficient than tradition diesel buses. To give a simplified explanation, they run on electricity at lower speeds, then gradually turn to their diesel engines as they increase in speed. Each time they brake, the battery that powers the electric components of their engine charges. The process, known as regenerative breaking, converts the kinetic energy created by the bus while breaking to electricity that can be used for power.

Each 40-foot diesel-electric hybrid bus cost just under $694,000. Federal grant money was used for the purchase — the most recent PSTA purchase with federal grant money since completing their 2015 Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Triennial Review.

The PSTA depends on nearly $14 million in federal grant money each year, so their high marks on the FTA Triennial Review are obviously a welcomed feat. Especially when considering that this is the first Triennial Review for the PSTA since repaying $354,000 to the federal government last year, following questions about transit safety ad content.

The 13 new buses were purchased from Gillig LLC — the largest purchase by the PSTA in more than five years — through a cost-saving consortium of all Florida public transit systems.

“Gillig is a 100 percent USA based company,” said Gillig’s Regional Sales Manager, Butch Sibley, via PSTA press-release. “This public investment goes right back into the U.S. economy to help support American Jobs.”

The new buses are expected to be in full service by the end of August 2015.

Devon Crumpacker is a Tampa Bay based writer and reporter for Extensive Enterprises Media. He primarily covers Pinellas County politics for SaintPetersblog.com, but also makes time to write the occasional bar review for FloridaBarTab.com. He lives in St. Petersburg with his fiance, Sydney. To contact, e-mail devon@floridapolitics.com, or visit his Twitter page @DevonCrumpacker.

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