Despite previous budget concerns, UCSD unveils five environmentally friendly shuttles

While the buses do not currently display any UCSD insignia, they will soon feature the new UCSD logo. “There really haven’t been any complaints about the buses because they have the same speed, acceleration rate and size,” A.S. Representative to the Transportation Committee Parminder Sandhu said. “The quality of the ride hasn’t changed, but it’s newer and cleaner inside.”
Unlike the old buses, which ran on diesel fuel, these buses run on compressed natural gas. According to Sandhu, the Transportation Committee is in favor of the purchase of these buses. Since CNG burns cleaner than diesel fuel, they are more environmentally friendly than the old buses. “The new CNG buses will help the campus meet its sustainability goals of reducing greenhouse gases and particulate emissions, while creating significant savings in fuel costs for the university,” Assistant Vice Chancellor of Auxiliary and Plant Services Russel Thackson said in an email. “Environmental sustainability is a part of UC San Diego’s DNA and a top priority for Transportation Services.”
CNG costs about half of what diesel fuel costs. Thackson estimates a savings of approximately $30,000 per bus per year, meaning the current fleet of five new buses will save Transportation Services about $150,000 per year.
Thackson said this savings will ultimately help Transportation Services’ current $7 million deficit. “The new CNG buses are a smart investment both fiscally and environmentally,” Thackson said. “Not only do they provide significant operational costs savings, they also lower our overall emissions. Purchasing the CNG buses is just one element in our ongoing push to meet UC San Diego sustainability goals.”
While there are currently five new buses in the bus fleet, Transportation Services is expecting two more buses, which will make the annual fuel and maintenance savings $210,000 annually. The two additional buses are expected to arrive in late 2012. The blue and white shuttles that these buses replaced were past their ten-year lifespan. According to Thackson, their age made them expensive to operate and maintain.
“To ensure the [old] vehicles were in compliance with the California Clean Air Act, each bus would have needed to be retrofitted with diesel pollution control devices,” Thackson said. “The buses were also due for further repair of major components like engines and transmissions.”
Rather than purchase these parts for the old buses, which would have cost over 50 percent of the initial purchase price for the old buses, Transportation Services put the money towards the new buses. “The cost to replace a bus is pretty expensive, but from this point on, every bus [Transportation Services buys] will be an environmentally friendly CNG bus,” Sandhu said. The buses currently run on the Regents route, as well as on the Arriba and Nobel routes. “The routes [that the buses are used on] were chosen based on passenger usage and bus capacity, as well as to maximize use of the more cost-effective CNG fuel in an effort to be as environmentally and economically efficient as possible,” Thackson said.
Currently, the Transportation Committee is surveying commuter students to help determine if shuttle routes or MTS services will be cut or combined.