First of 20 new hybrid buses blessed
• Photo gallery: Unveiling ceremony for 'Smart bus'
By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer
The city yesterday dedicated the first of 20 new hybrid-electric buses destined for Honolulu roads.
The nearly $1 million, 60-foot buses are costlier than standard diesel buses. However, the hybrid buses also are more fuel efficient, less polluting and quieter than diesel buses.
The buses, which will be delivered during a two-year period, are being paid for with a portion of federal stimulus money. Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Sen. Daniel Inouye yesterday said the buses are an example of how the stimulus program is working for Hawai'i.
"For those who may question why our federal government has to help our cities and our states, look no further than our bus system," Hannemann said during a dedication ceremony at Honolulu Hale yesterday. "What better way to demonstrate that ongoing commitment that we have to be able to have the latest technology, the latest equipment all combined into one so that our drivers can continue to serve with aloha."
The 20 New Flyer 60-foot buses are made primarily in Minnesota. They cost the city about $975,000 each. In contrast, a standard 40-foot clean diesel transit bus costs the city about $395,000. The purchase will expand the city's hybrid fleet to 70 buses. The city has about 530 buses overall.
The hybrid bus purchase appears to meet several goals of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act transportation spending, including improving public transit and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They are expected to be used on urban routes that require frequent starts and stops. That would maximize their fuel efficiency and emission benefits, said city transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka.
"Hybrids, where they really shine, is on the congested routes and where the clean diesels really shine is in the long hauls," Yoshioka said yesterday. "What we are really seeking is an environmentally friendly solution and in the case of the hybrids, in an urban area, you're going to get better fuel mileage and you're going to get cleaner emission."
However, there is still debate over whether the more expensive hybrid buses provide greater long-term economic and environmental benefits than buying the cheaper, cleaner-running diesel buses.
After the bus dedication, the topic turned to politics and the city's rail project. Inouye responded to a reporter's questions about whether it would be appropriate for Hannemann to leave office before the end of his term to run for governor, as he is expected to do. Former Congressman Neil Abercrombie , who's also running for governor, has said that Hannemann should remain in office to ensure that the city's planned $5.3 billion commuter rail project gets off the ground.
"You can't see everything through," said Inouye, who has been a key congressional supporter of Honolulu's planned elevated rail line. "There's certain projects that go on forever, like transportation, and as long as you can start a program on its way that should suffice."