Tracking Costs of Alternatively Fueled Buses in Florida Phase II          

(Center Identification Number: 77943)

Principal Investigator:

Steven Reich, Transportation Program Evaluation & Economic Analysis (TPEEA) Program Director

Phone: 813-974-6435
E-mail: reich@cutr.usf.edu
Fax: 813-974-5168
Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida

Co-Principal Investigator:

Alexander Kolpakov, Research Associate

Phone: 813-974-4038
E-mail: kolpakov@cutr.usf.edu
Fax: 813-974-5168
Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida

External Project Contact:

Robert Westbrook
Florida Department of Transportation, Public Transportation Office
robert.westbrook@dot.state.fl.us
Phone: 850-414-4533

I.  Project Objective/Problem Statement/Background

Florida transit agencies have been dealing with volatile fuel prices and changes in regulations regarding diesel engines and fuel. In addition, there has been an increased emphasis on reducing the overall consumption of fossil fuels, as well as reducing carbon emissions by transit agencies. To address fuel price uncertainties and environmental concerns, many agencies have introduced alternative fuel vehicles into their fleets. This has occurred even as diesel technology has gotten cleaner with recent changes to ultra-low sulfur fuel and enhanced emission control technologies. These advancements, on the other hand, have increased both capital and operating costs for some fixed-route operators and created challenges for wide-spread adoption of advanced transit technologies.

One technology that is gaining popularity is the diesel hybrid-electric bus. The growth in the acquisition of these units has been helped by recent funding made available through the federal economic stimulus effort. Some agencies in Florida have made applications and are receiving funding for these buses through the “Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction” or TIGGER Grant program while others are using regular transit capital funds. The TIGGER Grants were created as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Typically, FDOT funds 50 percent of the non-federal share of bus capital and stands to have substantial investment in this technology as acquisition costs for these buses averages about $150,000 more per unit.

FDOT is interested in collecting and maintaining the up-to-date data on the performance and costs of alternative fuel vehicles as both the Department and local transit agencies continue to evaluate the benefits and costs of investment in the advanced transit technologies. FDOT has worked with CUTR in the past in attempts to quantify the potential cost differentials associated with various heavy-duty bus propulsion technologies. A 2009 NCTR project (FDOT Contract Number: BDK85 Task Work Order Number: #977‐18 Research Center) provided for establishing a cost reporting system for the collection of fleet performance and cost data from Florida transit agencies. The response to the data requests, however, has been less than ideal to maintain the cost model current. FDOT is interested in continuing this effort of collecting and reporting relevant performance and efficiency data on the operation of alternative fuel transit vehicles in Florida.

II. Objectives/Tasks

The main objective of this project is to continue collecting and reporting the data on the performance and costs of alternatively fueled public transit vehicles in the state and to develop an alternative method of getting Florida transit agency data reported in a consistent manner in order to keep the Bus Fuels Fleet Evaluation Tool (BuFFeT) cost model current. The data collected and periodically reported will enable policy makers to have actual field data to assist their future decision making on maintenance resources and future vehicle acquisitions.

Task 1.  Project Management

This task will cover project management at CUTR, including producing required progress reports and carrying out deliverable reviews before submittal to FDOT.  A kick-off meeting shall be scheduled to occur within the first 30 days of execution by the university. The preferred method for the kick-off meeting is via teleconference or video conference. At a minimum, the Project Manager and the principal investigator will attend. The Research Center staff must be advised of the meeting and given the option to attend. Other parties may be invited, as appropriate. The subject of the meeting will be to review and discuss the project’s tasks, schedule, milestones, deliverables, reporting requirements, and deployment plan. A summary of the kick-off meeting shall be included in the first progress report.

Task 2.  Data Collection and Reporting Tool

CUTR will continue collecting the data from the fixed-route transit service providers on the performance of alternative fuel vehicles in their fleet using the reporting tool established under the previous NCTR project (FDOT Contract Number: BDK85 Task Work Order Number: #977‐18 Research Center). It is anticipated that the data collected from the transit agencies will include: agency name, unit number, length of the vehicle, power plant, fuel type, duty cycle, date placed in service, acquisition cost, warranty status, life-to-date mileage, life-to-date fuel usage, life-to-date parts costs, and life-to-date labor costs. However, the exact data content and the reporting format may be changed slightly in order to facilitate data collection process and address potential issues with data availability. Consultation with FDOT will be required in order to determine if this reporting will be a requirement under any grant or funding agreements with FDOT.

It is anticipated that agencies procuring heavy-duty transit buses and those acquiring lighter-duty paratransit vehicles that are alternatively fueled with FDOT financial assistance will be requested to report on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. The frequency of reporting will be discussed with the Project Manager and the agencies in order to come up with appropriate and realistic standards that would not impose excessive costs on the reporting agencies. It is CUTR’s intention to minimize data gathering and reporting burden to the extent possible, while not compromising the project objectives.

The attempt will be made to develop an alternative method of reporting the Florida agency data that would facilitate data collection effort and improve transit agencies’ involvement in the analysis. CUTR will investigate the feasibility of developing an on-line reporting system that will allow agencies to input data on the performance and costs of their alternatively fueled transit vehicle fleet electronically. The decision regarding the implementation of the system will be made in coordination with Project Manager after examining projected costs (including upfront development costs and on-going maintenance costs) and logistics issues related to the development of such reporting tool.

Task 3. Update Bus Fuels Fleet Evaluation Tool (BuFFeT) Model

The data collected as a result of the efforts outlined in Task 2 will be used to update the BuFFeT cost model, previously funded by the FDOT. Keeping the model populated with the latest data is required in order for the model to be useful and valuable as a decision support tool to the policy makers regarding the costs and benefits of investing in alternative propulsion transit vehicles in Florida. The current task may also involve slight modification of the default parameters of the model and other adjustments that may be necessary to improve the accuracy of the model output.

Task 4.  Cost Comparison Reporting

CUTR will collaborate with the FDOT Project Manager on the content, timing, and distribution of the reports resulting from the activities in Task 2.  In addition, summary reports that compare cost data across different propulsion technologies used on heavy-duty transit vehicles will also be produced as a result of activities performed in Task 3, using the recently released Bus Fuels Fleet Evaluation Tool ( BuFFeT© model).

The main focus of the reporting will be to examine operating and cost implications, related to the use of various alternative fuel technologies and equipment, and is not designed to be used for cross agency comparisons.  CUTR researchers will remain sensitive to this issue during the data collection process, cost data analysis, and for the entire duration of the project.

Task 5. Evaluation and Research of Florida Initiatives

CUTR will be available to assess issues relating to alternative fuels, emission reduction and fuel efficiency projects that stem from transit agencies’ grant requests to FDOT.  The Office of Public Transportation will initiate specific requests for research and analysis.  This activity will take place as required and when requested by the Project Manager and will include coordination with appropriate FDOT District and transit agency personnel.  A letter report will be provided to the Project Manager and appropriate FDOT District personnel at the conclusion of each requested analysis.  The findings from requests made under this task will also be included in the draft and final reports that result from the project.

In addition, this task provides for tracking other efforts related to the evaluation of performance of alternative fuel transit vehicles in Florida. CUTR researchers will identify, review, and report to the Project Manager any relevant initiatives by other organizations/entities in the state regarding the analysis of cost and benefits of operating alternative fuel transit technologies. Tracking similar research initiatives is intended to maximize the accuracy and efficiency of the current analysis by supplementing it with the existing knowledge on the subject and providing the basis for verifying the reasonableness of the results.

Results of the research and evaluation conducted in this task will be shared with professional organizations, including Florida Public Transportation Association (FPTA) and Florida Transit Maintenance Consortium (FTMC), as well as other industry stakeholders.

Task  6.  Final Report

No later than the end date of the task work order, CUTR will produce a final report that summarizes the project activities and the data reported by the participating transit agencies.  The report will also include any provisions made for the on-line reporting tool so that FDOT or another entity can continue to acquire data after the project is completed. Further details on the final report are described below in the Deliverables section. Work not included in this scope of service is not to be performed and will not be subject to compensation by the Department.

III. Deliverables

Progress Reports  

The Principal Investigator will submit quarterly progress reports to the Research Center.  The first report will cover the activity that occurred in the quarter following the issuance of the Task Work Order.  Quarterly reports due dates will follow the annual calendar. Reports should be submitted within 30 days of the end of the reporting period.  Reports are due even if little or no progress has occurred (in which case, the report should explain delays and/or lack of progress).  Progress reports should be sent in MS Word to Sandra Bell, sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us. Progress reports must include the following information:

  • Contract Number, Task Work Order Number, and Title
  • Work performed during the period being reported
  • Work to be performed in the following period
  • Anticipated modifications (i.e., to funding, schedule, or scope).  This section is for reporting/informational purposes, not for officially requesting an amendment. Note:  To request an amendment to a contract, the contractor must provide the project manager with the appropriate information (i.e., what is being requested with justification) in the required format.  If the project manager concurs with the request, he/she shall forward it with his/her approval and commentary, as appropriate, to the Research Center for administrative review and processing (pending available funds, etc.)
  • A Progress Schedule updated to reflect activities for the period being reported. Failure to submit progress reports in a timely manner may result in termination of the work order

 

Draft Final Reports  The Draft Final Report is due 90 days prior to the end date of the task work order. The draft final report will be submitted to Sandra Bell, sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us. It should be edited for technical accuracy, grammar, clarity, organization, and format prior to submission to the Department for technical approval.  The Research Center expects contractors to be able to provide well-written, high quality reports that address the objectives defined by the scope of service. Draft final reports must be prepared in accordance with the “Guidelines for Preparing Draft Final and Final Reports.”

Closeout Meeting  A closeout meeting shall be scheduled to occur in the final 30 days of the project.  The preferred method for the closeout meeting is via teleconference or video conference.  The purpose of the closeout meeting is to conduct a project performance review, the deployment plan, and next steps.  Attendees shall include as a minimum, the project manager, the principal investigator, and the Research Center performance coordinator.

Final Reports  Once the draft final reports have been approved, the university shall prepare the final report.  The university will deliver a minimum eight (8) copies of the final report in MS Word on CD or DVD. The CD/DVDs should be labeled in a professional manner and include at a minimum the contract number, task work order number, project title and date.

The final report is due no later than the end date of the task work order and should be delivered to the following address:

The Florida Department of Transportation

Research Center, MS 30

605 Suwannee Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0450

 

IV. Project Schedule

Start Date:  December 2011              Expected End Date: July 2013

V. Project Budget

Total Lump Sum Amount (Salaries and Benefits)              $89,450.00

Cost Reimbursable Subtotal                                                        $500.00

Indirect Cost (subtotal x 10%)                                                         $50.00

Total Project Cost                                                                      $90,000.00

VI. Equipment

No equipment is anticipated nor requested for the completion of this study.

VII. Travel

No travel is anticipated for this project. All travel shall be in accordance with Section 112.061, Florida Statutes. FDOT employees may not travel on research contracts.

VIII. Personnel

 

Principal Investigator: Stephen L. Reich is the Program Director of the Transportation Program Evaluation & Economic Analysis (TPEEA) team at the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida. Mr. Reich has over 30 years of transportation experience, much of it at the policy level.  His background in transportation financing and programming includes having been responsible for a state department of transportation’s six-year multi-billion dollar capital program, implementing innovatively financed projects, and acting as staff to a state secretary of transportation during two successful statewide transportation revenue increase initiatives.

Co-PI and Researcher: Alexander Kolpakov is a research associate with over 8 years of experience in transportation research. Mr. Kolpakov will participate in the project from start to finish. As a Co-PI, he will exercise project management duties, as well as gather and analyzing data, update the BuFFeT cost model, and research other issues related to the project.

Researcher:  Joel Volinski is the director of the National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) program at CUTR. He will provide internal review of the draft final report and oversight throughout the project period, and while his effort is small on this project, his expertise is essential to this project and the program. The budget figure reflects his estimated input for this project.

Researcher: Janet L. Davis is the TPEEA deputy director with extensive experience in the analysis of operating and maintenance cost of fixed-route transit services. Ms. Davis will provide support on Task 1, Task 2, Task 4 and Task 5 of this project.

Program Assistant:  Will provide assistance with contract administration including quarterly reporting, layout and editing of the draft final report as well as other programmatic and clerical assistance needed for this project.

 

 

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