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Kitsap Transit buys 30 'clean' buses

Within the next few years, commuters won’t be choking on dark smoke plumes emitting from Kitsap Transit buses. Instead, they will be treated to cleaner running machines, according to agency officials.

The Kitsap Transit Board of Commissioners decided last week to OK the purchase of up to 30 new, full-size, low-foor, clean diesel transit buses in 2004 for about $8.6 million.

“We’re really happy with it because we waited just long enough for improvements in diesel engine technologies,”said Kitsap Transit Executive Director Richard Hayes. “These have much lower emissions.”

The buses are to be purchased using a combination of local and federal dollars, according to officials.

Kitsap Transit is expected to pay at the actual point of delivery, set for mid 2004.

“In the coming years, you won’t see any smoke from any of our buses,” Hayes said.

“Our goal is that by the end of 2004, we will have reduced emissions by 90 percent,” said Colby Swanson, director of vehicle maintenance for Kitsap Transit. “We will do that by retiring older buses, retrofitting the worker driver buses and (part of) our regular fleet and introduce 50 new buses.”

This more recent commitment to purchase 30 new buses follows a similar purchase of 18 clean diesel suburban-style buses and two low-floor, clean diesel buses.

That contract cost just under $6 million. The suburbans are to be used on the north end of Kitsap County, such as on the route from Poulsbo to Bainbridge and the ferry terminal, and the low-floor buses will be used in the central and south-end routes

Those 50 buses — both suburban and low-floor — will replace most of the current routed fleet, built in the mid 1980s.

Plans include retrofitting those older buses with catalytic converters and installing them in the worker-driver program.

The worker driver buses, many of them built from 1971 to 1974, will be totally retired.

Swanson said the retrofit is expected to be paid for using grants from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and local dollars.

“The biggest difference between standard diesel and clean diesel is that the major portion of sulfur in the fuel is eliminated,” Swanson said. “It’s that sulfur that creates that particulate matter. It’s unburned fuel, basically.”

The upcoming changes to the routed buses and the worker driver buses are expected to meet federal emissions standards.

Kitsap Transit officials considered purchasing hybrid buses instead, but those proved to be too cost prohibitive, with price tags nearly twice as high as clean diesel buses.

Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen, a transit board member, said she’d prefer the hybrids, but clean diesel buses, she said, are the next best solution.

“We don’t think about air pollution in Kitsap County,” Endresen said. “But the time to start thinking about it is before we are thinking about it everyday.”

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