The city-owned hybrid bus was added to the fleet in the winter and has been used on a number of routes in Steamboat Springs. The city plans to purchase two more hybrid buses with the help of federal grants.

Photo by John F. Russell

The city-owned hybrid bus was added to the fleet in the winter and has been used on a number of routes in Steamboat Springs. The city plans to purchase two more hybrid buses with the help of federal grants.

City's hybrid bus fleet set to expand

With federal grant funds, Steamboat Springs will purchase 2 additional vehicles


— Steamboat Springs Transit's hybrid bus has proven so popular that drivers and passengers have just one complaint: There's only one of them.

That's set to change. The city of Steamboat Springs has been allocated grant funding that will allow it to purchase two additional diesel-electric hybrid buses to join the one it put into service in the winter.

"The vehicles have proven to be very popular both locally and nationally," Transit Operations Manager Jonathan Flint said. "Passengers and the drivers have really enjoyed the vehicle."

Flint said the city initially purchased just one hybrid bus to see whether it would truly achieve meaningful fuel savings.

"It sounded like a very good option, but we wanted to get a single bus to test it in our environment," Flint said. "I'd like to have a full year, but we really have been noticing some trends with it."

So far, Flint said the bus has achieved 27 percent better fuel mileage than standard diesel buses, and it uses 31 percent less fuel per hour. While an average SST bus will use about 7,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year, the hybrid is on track to use between 5,100 and 5,200 gallons. Flint said the city currently is paying about $3 a gallon for diesel. At that price, the hybrid is on track to save the city between $5,400 to $5,700 in fuel costs annually.

Flint also said the low-floor design of the hybrid bus and its automatic climate control system have made it very popular with drivers and passengers. The hybrid's regeneration system also reduces wear on brake pads.

The total cost of the two new buses is $1.2 million. About $920,000 of the cost will be covered by grants. The rest will be paid for by the city. Flint said U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, was instrumental in securing the grant funding for one of the two buses.

"I'm glad that this funding will help the city of Steamboat enhance their transit service with the addition of another hybrid bus," Salazar said in a news release. "This technology is just one piece in solving our challenging energy puzzle, and I applaud Steamboat for taking this proactive step."

Now that the city's first hybrid bus has proven itself, Flint said he's happy the city was granted enough funds to purchase multiple hybrid buses at once.

"The funding is great," city grant writer Winnie DelliQuadri said in a news release. "We wouldn't be able to buy this bus without it. We have one hybrid bus in our fleet, and it's great. We're working to be environmentally sustainable, and we wouldn't be able to do it without these grant dollars."

Gillig Corp., of Hayward, Calif., will begin manufacturing the buses in August or September 2010. The city anticipates delivery of the buses in late 2010 and hopes to put them in service by early 2011.


toboyle105 7 years, 9 months ago

So the rest of America gets to buy Steamboat USA overpriced buses that will produce savings to the city of 5400 to 5700 per year each with fuel at 3 dollars a gallon. Diesel fuel elsewhere is 2.25 per gallon. Sounds like us taxpayers are getting one hell of a deal. Don't be sad for the city employees who lost their jobs in Steamboat, we are creating new ones in Hayward, Ca.


Fred Duckels 7 years, 9 months ago

The busses seem nice but as a conservative it makes me grind my teeth, another example of living beyond our means. Better fire up the printing presses and make sure they run on either wind or solar. Tack another million onto the debt, and hope that is is not the one that brings down the house of cards. We are on the brink of collapse, but there is joy in Steamboat town. Let's have a parade and toast the grant writers, let's stop worrying about our infrastructure as Uncle Sam is going to provide for us, any needs that he sees fit. I do understand though, that this is a great and fulfilling day, if one has a liberal viewpoint.


Doug Marsh 7 years, 9 months ago

As a liberal, I agree with Fred, this time. The cost of a hybrid bus is over $500,000, regular buses $250,000, that has to be paid by someone, even if it's the federal government. Our taxes. Would you pay that much to get 4 more miles per gallon.
A better question would be, what percentage of the bus is filled. We always hear of the 1,000,000 passengers per year. If the bus is only 15 % filled, I think it is a waste of tax payer money and could be used in better ways. Just another thought.


Alan Geye 7 years, 9 months ago

For Steamboat, I see this as a great deal. As Americans though, it may not be so good because it's we Americans that essentially paid for the buses. I did a present value calculation and I'll let you draw your own conclusion. At $600k per bus, and assuming 5% interest over an estimated 10 year life (I don't have a clue if that is excessive; if my estimate is too generous, the monthly payment goes up), the monthly cost just to purchase is about $6,300. The estimated monthly fuel savings is around $450. I'm just guessing but I suspect the monthly cost of a standard diesel bus would be substantially less than $6,000. Now, if we only knew the cost of a standard diesel bus, one could actually do a financial comparison. Has anyone at the Pilot even thought about asking that sort of penetrating question and completing the financial analysis? Right now, the article just talks in broad generalizations. I thought journalists were supposed to be probers of fact?


toboyle105 7 years, 9 months ago

Again I ask, why in a state that has abundant natural gas we are not converting the buses to cng? CNG is a clean burning cheap energy source. Clean burning CNG means the buses require less maintenance because CNG is CLEAN burning. Where are the batteries going to end up on this hybrid when they end their life span. How much energy was expended in the manufacture of these said batteries? How much pollution was generated manufacturing these batteries? I guess that this happened in a place other than Steamboat it makes it ok.


kspork 7 years, 9 months ago

Great idea, but I think that there was an issue with the sizing of the one hybrid bus last winter. Seems as though it had to run a small town loop, in the winter do to the fact that it is slightly wider and would not accomidate ski racks on the side, cause it would then be wider than a single lane of traffic. there fore it could not carry skier traffic. Could be a source of city jokes...if memory serves me correct... another million dollar oops for the record books. I could be wrong, but that is what I remember.


Kevin Nerney 7 years, 9 months ago

I don't use the public transportation system but I do know some of the drivers and the all say the hybrid spends more time in the shop then on the road. Can't verify that and they can't speak out for fear of reprisal. Maybe the investigation should continue.


Fred Duckels 7 years, 9 months ago

The tendency not to pass up a bargain may be in play here, will we change from SST to Iron Horse Express? No ski racks, bargains usually have a downside, are we running a proving grounds for the manufacturer? We are emerging from a long period of bad decisions, let's be careful.


kneedropper 7 years, 9 months ago

Another point to ponder is the match for 1.2 million dollars in vehicles vs. the match of 500,000 dollars for conventional vehicles vs. the annual fuel cost savings??

Personally I think this is about time that Steamboat goes alt fuel with the buses and applaud Jonathan and Winnie for their hard work.

I wonder though about the furloughed city employees feelings about the City's brand new buses ????


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