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DART’s New Generation of Buses Part of Clean Transit Fuels Program

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by Emily Sims

DART’s release of environmentally friendly buses gives some residents incentive to ride.

The DART 987 Rapid Route bus is practically empty on a Monday afternoon just before rush hour. Dallas resident Justin Joseph, headed towards Royal Lane Station, listens to music as he rides. Joseph occasionally takes the DART bus to get to job interviews, and like many people, he is conscious his carbon footprint. He knows that using public transportation is a step in the right direction, but wasn’t unaware that the type of bus he was riding was making his footprint even smaller.

DART Natural Gas Bus

“I’m glad the buses are taking steps to help the environment,” Joseph said when he learned that he was riding one of DART’s new environmentally-friendly, compressed natural gas (CNG) buses. The buses are a part of DART’s overall plan to reduce emissions and ultimately save money.

DART began to replace its old buses with 459 new ones in January. The release of the new buses is the latest phase in DART’s clean transit fuels program.

The new buses emit significantly less harmful emissions, get better gas mileage, need less frequent repairs, come with new safety features, and will make it possible “to lock-in a reduced cost savings of almost two-thirds on our current fuel bill,” said Mark Ball, director of DART’s media relations.

In addition to running on CNG, the new buses feature other upgrades like larger windows, easier accessibility for disabled riders, color LED monitors, increased legroom, and security cameras.

Mark Sikkel, a former vice president of Exxonmobil Production Company, explained that CNG is better for the environment because it burns cleaner than gasoline, which is made from crude oil.

“Compressed natural gas is just natural gas compressed to higher pressure so the tank holds more,” Sikkel said.

Now that natural gas has become more plentiful in the U.S., and prices are down, Sikkel thinks it is economical for bus companies to put in the special engines required to burn CNG.

DART considers itself a leader in the “green” movement, Ball said, noting the company’s $25 million investment in cutting bus emissions by 68 percent over the past decade.

“As population has increased, so has pollution,” Ball said. “It will take small sacrifices on each of our parts to change this.”

DART’s Clean Transit Fuels Program began in 2009 when the DART Board was researching new types of buses to replace its old fleet, which had been in service since 1998.

Paratransit vehicles, used to provide curb-to-curb service to people with disabilities, were the first to be replaced in September 2012. All 123 of DART’s 14-to-17 passenger buses followed closely behind in October 2012.

The new standard DART buses, like the one Joseph was riding, began rolling in January. DART plans to introduce five each week until the entire fleet is replaced by 2015.

DART has an average weekday ridership of 125,900 passengers, which is roughly 10 percent of the Dallas population. The other 90 percent, like SMU senior Garrett Ancey, are hesitant to use DART services, even though they’re going green.

“I don’t use public transportation to be eco-friendly, I use it for its convenience and efficiency,” said Ancey.

Ancey was an avid user of public transit while working in New York City this past summer, but doesn’t use it in Dallas because he doesn’t think it is an efficient choice.

But riders like Joseph are encouraged by DART’s dedication to the environment and plan to use the bus more frequently.

“Now that I know it is more environmentally friendly, it is definitely more of an incentive to use it,” he said.

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