Shuttling Passengers, Reducing Emissions
Flint MTA transports nearly 470,000 passengers through its paratransit service. Seniors, persons with disabilities, and the public rely on MTA’s “Your Ride” curb-to-curb shuttle bus service within the City of Flint and Genesee County. And, Community Transit buses travel fixed routes throughout the area. As buses in its fleet age, MTA continues to replace them with alternatively fueled vehicles.
For Flint Mass Transportation Authority (MTA), part of its goal to provide quality community transportation at an affordable cost was transitioning to propane autogas vehicles. Since purchasing its first Ford E-450 paratransit shuttles in 2011, MTA has added transit buses and more shuttles to its fleet, for a total of 117 vehicles fueled by propane autogas. With almost half of their vehicles running on propane autogas, the agency currently has one of the largest autogas fleet in U.S. public transit.
The versatility of the vehicle platform allowed the agency to enhance its bus features, including more passenger and wheelchair capacity.
Flint MTA’s explored alternative fueled vehicles to provide sustainability for the future, both economically and environmentally. During its extensive research, the agency examined many factors, including fueling needs; vehicle availability and warranty; rider requirements; and the fuel itself. The agency also considered that fuel systems designed by companies with Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) status would retain the original factory Ford warranty, an important factor for the agency.
For its paratransit fleet, the agency purchased Ford E-450 cutaways equipped with propane autogas fuel systems. The versatility of the vehicle platform allowed the agency to enhance its bus features, including more passenger and wheelchair capacity. The 41-gallon fuel tank provides the agency a 200-mile driving range.
MTA worked with Blue Bird to create a propane autogas-fueled Type C bus for fixed route service. The agency’s 16 transit buses, purchased as commercial buses, were upfitted for public transit use with transit windows, seating, destination sign and two wheelchair positions.
These buses are Altoona-test rated for 350,000 miles or 10 years. Each 39-seat bus is equipped with a 6.8L Ford engine, a ROUSH CleanTech fuel system and a 93-usable-gallon fuel tank. Flint MTA says the buses average 325-mile range per tank.
Fueling with propane autogas offers Flint MTA a cleaner emissions profile. By operating on this fuel, MTA eliminates more than 200,000 pounds of carbon dioxide during the lifetime of each Ford E-450, and 800 pounds of nitrogen oxide and 35 pounds of particulate matter every year for each Blue Bird bus, when compared with the fleet’s conventionally fueled vehicles.
Compared with gasoline-fueled vehicles, propane autogas vehicles emit about 20 percent less nitrogen oxide, 60 percent less carbon monoxide, and up to 24 percent less greenhouse gases. Compared to diesel, propane autogas releases virtually no harmful particulate matter and substantially reduces nitrogen oxides.
Along with its environmental benefits, domestically produced propane autogas is economical. Historically, propane autogas costs up to 40 percent less than gasoline and about 50 percent less than diesel. Flint MTA expects to save $70,000 per shuttle bus during their normal lifecycle of 10 years and 350,000 miles, for a total savings of more than $5 million.
The agency has driven millions of miles in its propane autogas vehicles. An MTA analysis showed it paid $.13 per mile for propane autogas (or 4.5 cents with tax credits) compared to $.24 per mile for gasoline and $.19 per mile for diesel.
In addition to fuel savings, the agency benefits from lower maintenance costs by fueling with propane autogas. Their propane autogas vehicles require just six quarts of oil compared to 16 quarts for their diesel vehicles. Plus, the filter packages for propane autogas are priced two-thirds less than the diesel filters. In-house driver training increased the agency’s miles-per-gallon driving record by 8 percent, saving thousands more each year.
At the pump, Flint MTA saves time, too. At eight gallons per minute, MTA drivers find fueling time quicker when compared to their conventionally fueled shuttle buses, which refuel at about five gallons per minute. The Flint MTA maintenance team handles fueling the Vision buses.
For fueling convenience, the agency installed six propane autogas stations. Flint MTA services all of Genesee County’s 640 square miles, and drivers are rarely more than 15 miles from a fueling facility.
Todd Mouw is president of ROUSH CleanTech. You can reach him at todd.mouw@roush.