On-going Evaluation of Alternatively Fueled Buses

(Center Identification Number: 77980-00)

Principal Investigator:

Stephen Reich
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
reich@cutr.usf.edu
(813) 974-6435

DSR Contact:

Laura Beagles, Division of Sponsored Research
Office of Research and Innovation
University of South Florida
3702 Spectrum Blvd, Suite 165
Tampa, Florida  33612-9445
lbeagles@usf.edu
(813) 974-5354

Project Manager:

Robert E. Westbrook
Transit Operations Administrator
Florida Department of Transportation
605 Suwannee Street, MS 26
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0450
robert.westbrook@dot.state.fl.us
850-414-4533

Background Statement

Florida transit agencies and funding entities continue to be under pressure to reduce operating costs and to run a more sustainable and environmentally friendly fleet in the urban environment. Funding made available through the federal economic stimulus effort known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) has aided growth in the acquisition of alternative fuel transit vehicles. Some Florida agencies are receiving funding through the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) grant program (part of ARRA), while others are using regular transit capital funds. Typically, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) funds 50 percent of the non-federal share of bus capital acquisition. Pressure on agencies to procure and on FDOT to fund alternatively fueled buses has escalated with the enormous push toward compressed natural gas as a domestically produced urban fleet fuel.

However, higher reliance on alternative fuels and propulsion technologies by some Florida agencies has increased both capital and operating costs for some fixed route operators, and has created challenges for the widespread adoption of advanced transit technologies. Additionally, with the wide variety of advanced transit technologies that is currently available as an alternative to regular diesel, transit agencies find it hard to choose the technology that will best fit their needs. Both transit agencies and FDOT can benefit from current data on the performance of alternative fuel transit vehicles, allowing the evaluation of advantages and limitations of different alternative propulsion technologies.

FDOT is interested in collecting and analyzing up-to-date data on alternative fuel vehicles’ performance to assist the department with evaluating the benefits and investment costs associated with advanced transit technologies. The Department engaged the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida (USF) in 2009, 2012, and again in 2013 to establish a reporting system for the collection of transit fleet performance and cost data. FDOT is interested in continuing regular data collection, monitoring, and evaluating field data on the performance and operating costs of alternative fuel transit vehicles that are currently in use in Florida and nationwide. These data are intended to assist decision-makers considering investment in alternative fuel transit technologies.

Research Objectives

The main research objectives for this project include:

1. Continue regular collection of maintenance, parts, and energy usage data of heavy-duty urban transit fleets in Florida, and attempt to collect similar data from the fleets outside of Florida to facilitate on-going life-cycle cost analysis of vehicles of varying propulsion types.
2. Create a statistically reliable database of transit fleets’ operations and maintenance costs to assess investment in energy efficient public transportation vehicles.
3. Provide policy-makers with recent and reliable data on fuel and maintenance savings resulting from investments in non-traditionally-fueled heavy-duty buses.
4. Facilitate and encourage regular data submissions by the transit agencies both in and outside Florida, and continue promoting agencies’ participation in the information exchange through the established Advanced Transit Energy Portal (ATEP).

Benefits

Providing transit service to the disadvantaged and to persons with disabilities more effectively and more efficiently is a goal of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), and the Florida CTD. As demand for paratransit continues to increase in many communities, transit agencies must find innovative, creative, and cost-efficient ways to meet increasing demand even when resources are not increasing at the same pace. This report will help agencies immediately apply effective practices that have been successful in solving challenges with the application of new innovative technologies that are available to the industry.

Supporting Tasks and Deliverables

Task 1: Continue Data Collection, Analysis and Reporting on the Performance of Alternatively Fueled Buses

CUTR will continue soliciting, collecting, and reporting data from Florida transit agencies on the performance of alternative fuel vehicles in their fleets. In addition, CUTR will attempt to collect operations and maintenance cost data from select fixed-route transit agencies outside of Florida. The non-Florida agencies to be contacted with the data request will be selected based on the number of the alternative fuel vehicles in their fleet, the type of the 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. The exact list of agencies to be contacted will be determined in consultation with the Project Manager.

It is anticipated that these data will be collected on a quarterly basis 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. The exact data content and format may be changed in order to facilitate the data collection process and address potential issues with data availability.

CUTR will use a formalized data reporting template developed under the previous NCTR project (FDOT Contract Number: BDK85 Task Work Order #977-18) to collect the data. Additionally, CUTR researchers will also explore the feasibility of deploying an on-line reporting system that will allow agencies to input data on the performance and costs of operating their alternative transit vehicles electronically, using a data collection interface of the Advanced Transit Energy Portal website, developed under a federal NCTR project. The exact data collection strategy will be decided in consultation with the Project Manager, accounting for the logistics, costs and expected effectiveness associated with different collection methods.

The data collected in this task will be used to perform the comparative analysis of various fuels and propulsion types used in transit vehicles. CUTR will submit to the Project Manager quarterly Fleet Cost Comparison reports summarizing the comparison of performance and various costs across different transit propulsion technologies. The analysis will focus primarily on the comparison of costs between the traditional diesel vehicles and different alternative fuels and propulsion technologies. Such comparison is intended to provide a tool for decision-makers to objectively assess the performance and costs associated with operating alternative fuel vehicles in transit fleets.

Task 2: Facilitate and Encourage Regular Data Submission

CUTR employees will visit all (27) fixed-route transit agencies in Florida in order to familiarize their personnel with data submission format and requirements. During those visits, CUTR researchers will try to meet with senior managers of each transit agency to present to them the data collection tool, demonstrate how to use it, and discuss comments or suggestions by the agencies regarding this data collection. Such personal interaction is meant to address possible concerns of the agencies, improve transit agencies’ cooperation and result in better compliance with regular data submission requests.

In addition to Florida agencies, CUTR researchers will also attempt to visit few key transit agencies outside of Florida to solicit their cooperation with the data collection effort. The list of non-Florida agencies to be visited will be determined in consultation with the Project Manager based on the types of alternative fuel vehicles operated by the agency, as well as the agency’s willingness to cooperate.

Task 2A: Paratransit Vehicle Data Collection

As a part of the overall task 2, special emphasis will be placed on collecting data from the agencies on the performance of Paratransit vehicles in Florida. The Principal Investigator and the Project Manager will initially meet with representatives from the Paratransit Maintenance Consortium housed at Florida State University to discuss the effort and to gain input. All fixed-route transit agencies, contacted under Task 2, that also operate or contract for Paratransit services will be requested to provide data on those vehicles as well. In addition, rural agencies not included in that group will be contacted and briefed on the vehicle data needs and the importance of the Department getting this information. Site visits to all fixed-route agencies that are also operating or contracting paratransit service will take place in this task. Visits to paratransit providers will be conducted, as practical, in conjunction with the visits to the 27 fixed-route agencies. Additionally, CUTR researchers will visit up to 3 rural paratransit agencies in an effort to establish communication and collect data on the performance of paratransit vehicles operated in rural areas of the state.

Task 3: Evaluation and Research of Other Advanced Propulsion Transit Technologies and Initiatives

CUTR will be available to assess issues relating to alternative fuels, advanced propulsion transit technologies, emission reduction initiatives, fuel efficiency projects, and other brief evaluations requested by 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 may include coordination with appropriate FDOT District and transit agency personnel, if warranted. A brief report will be provided to the Project Manager 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.

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.

Task 4: Final Report

No later than the end date of the task work order, CUTR will deliver an approved final report that summarizes the project activities, provides an overview of the data reported by the participating transit agencies, and presents the results of the comparative data analysis. Further details on draft final report and the final report are described below.

Draft Final Report

The Draft Final Report will be a high-quality document that addresses the objectives defined by the scope of service. CUTR will ensure that the report is well-written and of a quality consistent with the excellence expected by the FDOT. It will be edited for technical accuracy, grammar, clarity, organization, and format, and will be prepared in accordance with CUTR or FDOT guidelines for preparing final reports.

The Draft Final Report will be submitted to Robert Westbrook (robert.westbrook@dot.state.fl.us), FDOT project manager, 30 days prior to the end date of the task work order for this research project.

Final Report

Once the draft final report has been approved, CUTR will prepare the final report. CUTR will deliver a minimum of two (2) CD copies of the final report. Each CD will contain the final report in PDF format and the final report in MS Word format. The CDs will be labeled in a professional manner and include at a minimum the FDOT contract number, task work order number, project title and final report date.

The final report will be completed and provided to Department no later than the end date of the task work order. CUTR will deliver the final report to the following address:

The Florida Department of Transportation
Office of Public Transportation
605 Suwannee Street, MS 30
Tallahassee, FL 32399

Use of Graduate Students (s) and other Research Assistants

A student assistant employed as an OPS employee will be involved in the completion of this project.

Travel

Travel to twenty-seven (27) cities in Florida to visit all Florida fixed-route transit agencies, three (3) rural areas in Florida to visit rural paratransit providers, one (1) visit to Tallahassee to meet with representatives from Paratransit Maintenance consortium (will be combined with visiting fixed-route agencies), and three (3) cities outside of Florida to visit select transit agencies around the country, for two faculty members, will be required during Task 2 and Task 2A of this project. The purpose of the visits will be to demonstrate data collection tool to transit professionals and facilitate agencies’ cooperation in data submission. The maximum amount of travel in this task is limited to $14,000 ($15,400 including indirect costs), including $9,500 for travel within the state of Florida ($10,450 including indirect charges) and $4,500 for travel outside of Florida ($4,950 including indirect charges).

All travel will be conducted in accordance with Section 112.061, Florida Statutes.

Expenses

Tuition fees will be requested for the grad student.

Project Kickoff Teleconference

A kick-off meeting shall be scheduled to occur within the first 30 days of the execution of the contract 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. 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.

Project Closeout Teleconference

The principal investigator will schedule a closeout teleconference that shall be held during the final 30 days of the task work order. The principal investigator, project manager, and research performance coordinator shall attend. Other parties may be invited, if appropriate. The purpose of the meeting is to review project performance, the deployment plan, and next steps.

Performance and Financial Consequences

Work not identified and included in this scope of service is not to be performed and will not be subject to compensation by the Department.

Financial consequences for unsatisfactory performance are referenced in Section 10 and Section 11 of the Master University Agreement, Form No. 375-040-64.

Publication Provision

If at any time during a TWO the University desires to publish in any form any material developed under the TWO, the University must submit to the TWO Manager a written abstract and notification of intent to publish the material and receive the TWO Manager’s concurrence to publish. Such approval to publish shall not be unreasonably withheld. If the TWO Manager does not provide a written response within 30 days after receipt, the University may publish. The publication must include the following language:

“The opinions, findings and conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Florida Department of Transportation or the U.S. Department of Transportation.”

Project Schedule

February 2015 to April 2015 (15 months)

Budget Summary

Total Project Cost $180,000 on a fixed fee basis

Leave a Reply

Please complete the simple math problem prior to submitting your comment. This reduces spam. Thanks! * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.