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National Alternative Fuel Bus Clearinghouse

(Center Identification Number: 79060-XX)

Principal Investigators:

Stephen L. Reich, Transportation Program Evaluation & Economic Analysis (TPEEA) Program Director
National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) at the
Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)
University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Avenue, CUT 100
Tampa, Florida  33620-5375

Alexander Kolpakov, Research Associate
National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) at the
Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)
University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Avenue, CUT 100
Tampa, Florida  33620-5375

Introduction and Purpose

Transit agencies and funding entities around the country continue to be under pressure to reduce operating costs and to run a more sustainable and environmentally friendly operation in the urban environment. Acquisition of alternatively-fueled urban buses has been a popular strategy to attempt to reach these goals. The pressures on the agencies to procure alternatively fueled buses have only escalated with the push toward compressed natural gas as a domestically produced urban fleet fuel. National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) have funded efforts in the last few years to gain a better understanding of the true life-cycle costs and operational issues associated with shifting a fixed-route bus system from traditional diesel-powered units to ones with a different power plant.

Acquisition, maintenance and operating data are collected on the fixed-route fleet in Florida and are used to provide Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and agencies with up-to-date information when acquisition or funding decisions are being made. Recently, a life-cycle cost model (BuFFeT©) was developed using data from fleets across the United States. Detailed data were obtained on nearly 5,000 heavy duty buses. These data, however, have not been updated since 2009. As technology has improved and agencies have gained more experience with operating alternatively fueled vehicles, another effort to collect fresh data will assist in creating a more reliable database for decision support. In addition, sharing the experience of various transit agencies with alternative propulsion technologies will be extremely valuable both for the agencies already running alternative fuel vehicles in their fleets, as well as the agencies that are only considering adopting them.

The National Center for Transit Research (NCTR – a Tier-1 University Transportation Center) will establish and maintain an on-going National Alternative Fuel Bus Clearinghouse covering all aspects related to the adoption and operation of alternative fuel buses by transit operators nationwide. The Clearinghouse will be a useful resource to public transportation providers, local and state governments, the private sector, and other transit stakeholders seeking the practical knowledge related to the adoption of alternative fuel vehicles by transit operators in the United States. The segment that follows provides a brief discussion of the envisioned activities of the proposed Clearinghouse.

National Alternative Fuel Bus Clearinghouse

The Clearinghouse will facilitate the collection and sharing of various data related to the operation of alternative fuel (CNG, LNG, electric, hybrid-electric, bio-diesel) buses in the US transit fleets. The data collected in this project will include, but will not be limited to, the latest developments in various alternative fuel transit technologies, as well as the U.S. transit agencies’ experience with operating alternative fuel vehicles in their fleets, including identified advantages and limitations, lessons learned, best practices, critical success factors, and noteworthy comments.

NCTR is well positioned to house a National Alternative Fuel Bus Clearinghouse. It has both demonstrated previous experience in researching alternative fuel transit technologies as well as technical capabilities to effectively disseminate the collected information through Listservs and other web/electronic media.

Maintaining Alternative Fuel Cost Model

NCTR researchers will reach out to the fixed-route transit agencies around the country to solicit operations and maintenance cost data on the performance of alternative fuel vehicles in their fleets. The agencies to be contacted with the data request will be selected based on the number of alternative fuel vehicles in their fleet, the type of propulsion system and fuel they use, as well as geographic region of the country (to provide even coverage) and the willingness of the agencies to cooperate. It is anticipated that these data will be collected quarterly or semi-annually and will include detailed information on the performance and costs of each transit vehicle, such as: length of the vehicle, power plant, fuel type, duty cycle, date placed in service, acquisition cost, life-to-date mileage, life-to-date fuel usage, life-to-date parts costs, life to date labor costs, and so forth.

Collecting this data periodically will allow the compilation and maintenance of an alternative fuel transit vehicle database, the tracking of performance of alternative fuel vehicles over time, as well as the ability to compare various alternative propulsion technologies.  This will also enable keeping the alternative fuel vehicle cost model up-to-date, populated with the latest fleet performance data. The exact data reporting requirements, format, and reporting frequency will be determined through discussions with transit agencies to ensure their compliance and participation.

Information Exchange

The collected information will be regularly shared with the participating agencies in the form of periodic newsletters, reports and other electronic and/or printed media.  The Clearinghouse will contain up-to-date press clippings, technical reports, system evaluations, Power Point presentations, and other documents related to the use of alternative fuel transit vehicles. The Clearinghouse will make use of listservs and other electronic/web-based media to provide an effective tool for exchanging ideas, networking, and sharing information between transportation community members, government officials, and private stakeholders.

The Clearinghouse will also collect readily available information on safety related issues, training requirements, facility expenses and any other issues that would be useful to those already using alternative fuels and those considering converting their fleets to alternative fuels.

The Clearinghouse is intended to create a single-point source of both theoretical and practical knowledge related to operating alternative transit vehicles in the U.S. transit fleets. It will facilitate information exchange and technology transfer, as well as provide a valuable resource to the transit agencies and government granting agencies considering the investment in alternative fuel transit technologies.

Project Schedule

November 2012 to November 2014

Project Budget

Total Project Cost     $78,250




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  • Florida Department of Transportation
  • US Department of Transportation



National Center for Transit Research c/o Center for Urban Transportation Research 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 Tampa, FL 33620-5375