CNG for OKC in MAPS 3
By Oklahoma Gazette, August 12, 2009
Oklahoma City needs a modern public bus system that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG). We have the chance to get it right with MAPS 3. We hear there is far more natural gas in the US than ever imagined, promising a secure, sustainable source. Much has been said about how clean and cheap CNG is versus diesel or gasoline. There is plenty of information on the general subject; but it is an eye-opening exercise to synthesize that information as it pertains to Oklahoma City.
Compared to diesel, CNG emits 50-95 percent fewer tailpipe toxins and 22-50 percent fewer greenhouse gases. This is big. By converting Oklahoma City's buses, we would eliminate 633 tons of greenhouse gases a year, the equivalent of removing 100 cars off the road.
Maintenance costs of CNG buses are projected to be 11 percent more than diesel. Right now CNG is roughly $1/gallon equivalent. Annual fuel savings alone would cover extra maintenance costs, five times over.
From a capital cost point of view, Oklahoma is the best state in the country to buy CNG vehicles and build CNG fueling stations. Current federal incentives make CNG buses only 6 percent more than diesel. On top of that, Oklahoma House Speaker Chris Benge passed legislation providing state tax incentives to buy new or convert old vehicles to CNG, including buses.
On a national level, Oklahoma Congressman Dan Boren is sponsoring a similar bill, providing federal funds for CNG projects. If passed and combined with state incentives, building a new standalone CNG station could cost less than $200,000. Buying a new CNG bus would cost less than buying a new diesel bus, and converting one pays out in months.
Energy is important to Oklahoma, generating one billion of our state tax dollars. More than 322,000 Oklahoma jobs benefit directly or indirectly from oil and natural gas.
Oklahoma City should join the 132 transit agencies in North America already using CNG buses. Converting our bus fleet makes sense, and the soon-to-be-determined MAPS 3 is the perfect conduit. What's more, included among the federal stimulus programs is a provision for CNG vehicles. This program could cover much of the upfront costs, but this provision sunsets Sept. 30. In more ways than one, the clock is ticking.
Harding is an advisory board member of the Modern Transit
Mayor prioritizes modern streetcar in OKC for MAPS 3
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
By Ben Fenwick and Rob Collins
If Oklahoma City is to be a destination- one with an active, jazzy nightlife in Bricktown and a world-class, millions-of-dollars new convention center, how will people get around when they arrive?
The proposed convention center will possibly be located somewhere south of the existing Interstate 40. Planners propose a six-lane, at-grade boulevard to replace the interstate, but is crossing six lanes on foot any fun? Try it crossing E.K. Gaylord from Bricktown to get to the Ford Center to see a show after dinner, or vice-versa.
And walking all the way from that proposed center to the Myriad Botanical Gardens? Forget about it.
"One of the priorities that we have to consider is what people do once they've arrive in Oklahoma City, whether it's by high-speed rail, Amtrak or commuter rail, or the Tinker line, which is commuter rail, bus rapid transit. ... Once they get downtown, how are they going to get around? asked Mayor Cornett. "For that reason, we've prioritized the downtown streetcar as an important MAPS 3 component.
You heard him right: prioritized. Cornett said he and the Oklahoma City Council are still in the "consensus-building stage." As MAPS 3 plans progress, the streetcar emerges as the one thing that can link all the MAPS projects together, from the Bricktown Ballpark built by the original MAPS, through the Ford Center's makeover, to the glittering new convention center proposed for MAPS 3- something has to allow the projected throngs of out-of-town visitors a way to get from one to the other.
Only one kind of transportation emerges that can do it all, Cornett said. "It makes sense to me that a 'phase one' of public transit in a city that has great plans like we do builds a downtown streetcar as an initial component," he said. "We need to converge our public transit options. We have an Amtrak station, we have a Greyhound station, we have an inner-city bus station. We'll need a fixed transit center that is close to the downtown business district, and the entertainment district, and one that can somehow work together that can involve all those different modes. Jeff Bezdek, the chairman of the Mass Transit Project (MTP) campaign, which proposes the modern streetcar design fueled by OG&E's wind-power system, acknowledged that talks with the mayor and City Council have progressed considerably.
"We have had a very positive and communicative dialogue with the mayor's office and City Council members. They seem to understand that a streetcar is the most viable way to fully fund any rail component in the near future that would be successful," Bezdek said.
As principal of Bezdek + Associates, he is unabashed about his support of the downtown streetcar system. First unveiled by his organization on the May 13 cover of Oklahoma Gazette, the system proposed by MTP would run along Sheridan Avenue from Bricktown, beginning near the Coca-Cola Bricktown Events Center, past the Bricktown Ballpark, across the traffic f Gaylord, past the Ford Center and stopping at the Myriad Botanical Gardens. Later expansions could run farther, up to the St. Anthony Hospital complex. On the other end, the line would extend north through the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center to stop at the Capitol complex.
Perhaps the most important aspect of eth proposed streetcar, Bezdek said, is that it would be the first pedestrian rail service in downtown Oklahoma City since the 1950s. It would give Oklahoma City residents a place to start without spending hundreds of millions for a light-rail system before trying out what a rail system is like. For the relatively (in rail terms) modest investment of around $100 million, Oklahoma City could have a usable rail system in three years, Bezdek said.
"It gives us the ability to expose our citizenry to rail without making the kind of investment that is essentially putting the chicken before the egg, and acclimate them to what a rail transit is like," he said. "Plus, downtown belongs to everyone. If you invest major money for one segment of the city, it is likely all the citizens will be able to benefit from it."
But not all transit dreams will be delivered in MAPS 3. Although one commuter rail is in the works- a line running from near Tinker Air Force Base to downtown Oklahoma City, according to Cornett- other hoped-for transit options may not come to pass this time around. One option originally supported by some may fall well outside MAPS 3: an extension of the Bricktown Canal.
In the end, Cornett said, MAPS 3 is about what form of transit will make the most sense for a place to start.
"One of my concerns is that those who are transit enthusiasts will think that MAPS 3 is supposed to be all inclusive to all sorts of different types of modes of public transit," he said.
"There will be those who will say, 'You should do a little bit of buses, a little bit light rail, a little bit downtown streetcar.' I think for where we are headed, the downtown streetcar is the best approach. The point to everybody is that we gotta start somewhere. I want to get started on a rail component for Oklahoma City, and the question is, 'Where do you start?' So, I'm the advocator."- Ben Fenwick
Secretary of Environment endorses the MTP
Oklahoma Secretary of Environment, J.D. Strong, encourages the exploration of a sustainable mass transit solution
"I believe Oklahoma City has the opportunity to create a completely sustainable mass transit solution... The wind-powered electric transit and CNG powered bus concept is innovative and would prove invaluable in our mutual effort to tout Oklahoma City's 'World Class' stature".Download the letter of endorsement
TULSA Bus System to Start Conversion to Compressed Natural Gas
Federal Stimulus Funds will enable Tulsa Transit to convert a large portion of its bus fleet from diesel-guzzling buses to more environmentally friendly ones that run on compressed natural gas.
By BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer, May 31, 2009
Federal stimulus funds will enable Tulsa Transit to convert a large portion of its fleet from diesel-guzzling buses to more environmentally friendly ones that run on compressed natural gas.
The $13 million project will switch out 13 of the system's 62 long buses and all 35 of the Lift Program's paratransit mini buses.
It also could fund the construction of a CNG fueling station for the buses and make some other system improvements.
Tulsa Transit General Manager Bill Cartwright said this effort is looked at as the first phase of an eventual total conversion.
"This came along at the perfect time," Cartwright said, adding that the CNG buses will save money on fuel and are quieter that those that run on diesel.
But most important, he said, is that they are supposed to be much better for the environment.
A scientific calculator shows that Tulsa's environment will be spared annually more than 320,000 pounds of pollutants, carbon monoxide among them, after the purchase of the first wave of buses.
"These buses run all day, nearly every day of the year, so there will be an impact," said Nancy Graham, the Indian Nations Council of Governments air quality program manager.
Because of the $2.6 million cost of the fueling station and the extra expense of the CNG buses, which cost about $420,000 for the standard model, the project would be impossible without the stimulus boost, Cartwright said.
"This will get us over the financial hump and on our way," he said.
Tulsa Transit has been awarded $8,853,448 in stimulus money through the Federal Transit Administration and $3,840,000 in stimulus funding through the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
A local match of $318,000 is coming from the city's 2006 third-penny sales tax program for the project to total $13,011,448.
Cartwright said Tulsa Transit needs to start the purchase process quickly because CNG buses are in demand due to the stimulus funding being distributed across the country.
"Everyone is after them right now," he said. "The lead time on the long buses is two years for them to be delivered."
The Lift Program mini buses, however, will likely arrive within a year's time, Cartwright said.
The 35-foot and 40-foot buses that are being replaced date back to 1998 and 2000 and the Lift Program buses are from 2005.
Before the new buses are delivered, the CNG fueling station will have to be built and upgrades on the maintenance building need to be made to be ready for them, Cartwright said.
The Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority has not yet decided whether to operate the CNG fueling station in-house or contract out the management to the private sector.
It also has been discussed that a company might want to come in and build its own fueling station and contract with Tulsa Transit to fuel its buses there. That would allow the transit system to save that cost and buy more CNG buses.
"We are bringing experts in to advise us on the best approach," he said.
The long-term costs of the station and its management are expected to be made up in the savings from weaning off diesel fuel.
So far, no funding has been identified to replace the rest of the fleet with CNG buses, Cartwright. Many will need to be switched by 2012.
Also being funded with stimulus money are $575,448 worth of Tulsa Transit system improvements, including passenger shelters, fleet radios, security equipment and a passenger counting system, among others.
From diesel to compressed natural gas
- 13 of the 62 long buses and all 35 of the Lift Program mini buses will be replaced with compressed natural gas buses.
- $13 million project uses about $12.7 million in federal stimulus money and a little more than $300,000 in local matching funds.
- CNG buses will expel less pollutants, save money on fuel and are quieter than diesel buses.