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Posted on Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

Green milestone: More than half of AATA's fleet of buses now using hybrid technology

By Ryan J. Stanton


One of the Ann Arbor Transportation's 41 hybrid buses, which are saving hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel and hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs.

Courtesy of AATA

Going, going, green.

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority is about to hit a major milestone in its effort to green its fleet with the purchase of another 10 GILLIG Hybrid buses.

Next week, when the new 2012 buses are put into service, the AATA officially will be able to say that more than half its fleet — 41 of 80 vehicles — is using hybrid technology.

CEO Michael Ford said that makes the AATA one of the greenest transit agencies in the nation. The buses provide both environmental benefits and cost savings, he said.


A look at the AATA's hybrid bus purchases since 2007.

"Not only will they help us save on fuel, operating and maintenance costs, but our community will be able to enjoy the benefits of reduced emissions and quieter buses," Ford said.

The AATA plans to retire less efficient buses that originally were purchased in 1996 when the new vehicles are put into service.

Two of the new vehicles will make it possible to implement service improvements along Washtenaw Avenue beginning on Jan. 30, AATA officials said.

A total of 2.6 million miles were driven in the last year by the AATA's current 78 buses, according to Mary Stasiak, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Hybrid buses reduce dependence on foreign oil, Stasiak said, citing figures that AATA's conventional buses achieve 3.51 miles per gallon of biodiesel on average, while the hybrids — which also use bio-diesel — achieve 4.53 miles per gallon.

Stasiak said 740,000 gallons of bio-diesel would have been purchased at an average cost of $2.96 for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. By having 31 hybrid buses in the fleet, she said, the agency only purchased 645,000 gallons, saving $283,000 in fuel costs.

The AATA, which is building up momentum for a countywide expansion, has had success recently in securing federal grants, including for its purchases of hybrid buses.

The $6.4 million cost for the latest hybrid electric-diesel buses was paid through a combination of a $1.7 million Federal Transportation Administration Clean Fuels Grant, federal formula funds, and state matching funds, AATA officials said.

The new buses were made by California-based Gillig LLC. AATA officials said they meet all Buy America requirements stipulated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with all of the iron, steel and manufactured materials used in the buses produced in the U.S.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 7:14 p.m.

Lets face it, we are all hypocrits. We want to feel good about ourselfs by wanting others do the things we think are right but will not do ourselves. I never ride the bus, I also never consider riding the bus as a reasonable alternitive to driving. It is to inconvienant and time consuming compaired to driving my car.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

..and other then wasting a fortune, what is that doing for anyone? Ann Arbor, land of eco fantasy fools.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 2:21 p.m.

I don't see our esteemed city council riding em..and all that " savings " comes right out of your wallet they don't run on " bio-diesel " they run on pork....The comment on smaller airport sized transports makes too much sense for Ann Arbor... after all it would create more jobs and helps reduce our traffic problems..people who don't spend their time looking at bark know that common sense doesn't live in the 6 mile square.....


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

For those critical of buying hybrid buses, all forms of transportation, especially highways and autos, are subsidized. The gas tax does not pay for all of the expense of maintaining and building roads. Tax dollars straight from the treasury -- measured in billions of dollars each year -- are transferred to the highway trust fund just to keep up with the costs of highways. Using less gasoline means less dependence on imported oil. We don't have good cost effective answers. We subsidize Middle Eastern oil by paying billions in military costs to keep transshipment points free and open. Unfortunately, to drill more in this country -- and domestic production has INCREASED under Obama -- you'd better root for much higher gas prices. You just can't get oil out of the ground here as cheaply as you can in Saudi Arabia, and that's never going to change for geological reasons. Using mass transit means fewer people in cars in the roadways, which means less traffic and more parking spaces open for drivers. It also means people who do not have a car can participate in the regional economy more freely, which reduces the cost of labor for businesses. The co-benefits of an effective, less consumptive mass transit system clearly outweigh the costs of these buses.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 7:02 p.m.

How often do you or your spouse ride the bus?


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 4:03 a.m.

I don't care if they're powered by burning pork fat. These buses -- along with the ones they replace -- are hideously oversized and a menace to navigation. Unlike Rick Perry, I can remember which agencies I'd eliminate if I were elected, and while I might not absolutely delete AATA, it would get a reorganizin' that would upset its current management substantially. The right answer for a city Ann Arbor's size is a fleet of about 1.5 times as many airport-shuttle-sized van conversions as we now have massive full-size buses. Yes, it would mean more driver employees, but the equipment costs would be tiny by comparison, and the impact on traffic would be reduced to a level appropriate to the bus-riding population. I'm not talking about dial-a-ride, but direct replacement of the battleship-sized behemoths that they seem to believe are necessary. More drivers, more-but-smaller vehicles, more route and schedule flexibility, and huge cost reductions in equipment and maintenance.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 2:16 p.m.

Oh, are you running for some elected office? Under what name? Where is your financial analysis posted online so we can review it to see that it, in fact, is less expensive than the current model pursued by the AATA and it's thousands of riders?


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 3:32 a.m.

The biggest cost of the bus is the battery...and they come from Japan.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 6:50 p.m.

According to Ex gov Granholm, we are going to make them in Mich. Didn't they layoff employees?

Mike D.

Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 1:43 a.m.

I'm in favor of investment to end foreign oil dependence, but these $700k buses are an extravagance we can't afford. They replaced perfectly good buses with years of service left in them. Based on the numbers above, these hybrids save less than $10k a year each in fuel costs. Based on a service life of 20 years, they will never pay for themselves. I reiterate my theory that the AATA would be more efficient if we just hired a fleet of chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce limousines.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 10:06 p.m.

Spending millions to save a few hundred thousand. I guess in government think that makes perfect sense. I always come back to the simple fact that this transit authority is subsidised at the rate of around 85%. That fact alone tells me that something is drastically wrong. Anyone disagreeing, please tell me what %rate is acceptable.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 1:18 p.m.

Johnny and Ross No, this is certainly not an "old tired argument". It is more prescient than ever now. Your premise: everyone uses the roads, therefore everyone should shoulder the burden of paying for them. Agreed. Your False premise: everyone uses the buses, therefore everone should shoulder the burden for paying for them. Patently false. In fact, very few, as a percentage of population use buses. Why else is there such a high subsidy? The parking stuctures in this town fill up every day, on street parking is a fight, yet buses go empty a good portion of every day. And, I don't 'strongly disapprove of tax dollars going to public transportation'. That is your misinterpretation of my previous post. I ended it with a question about the % subsidy. That is what I have a problem with. When a public transportation unit needs that high of a subsidy, then something is wrong. Very, very wrong. That is my point. Get it? Look, I've used public transportation in countries all over the world, from Europe to Africa and Asia. Everywhere you go, the buses, trains, trams,subways, etc. are packed almost all the time. I'm sure that there are subsidies involved, but when the rescources are used near 100% capacity, this is a good outlay of public funds. AATA has always been a fringe rescource in this town. I expect that to worsen if their plan for county wide use is implemented. BTW, I think that is the major beef of the outlying communities, isn't it? They don't see the benefit from the additional tax, do they?


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 12:37 a.m.

Agreed, Johnny. All types of transportation are subsidized. Thats why we pay taxes, to spread around the investments and services we all deem necessary to provide ourselves. AATA consistently wins votes approving millages for operation. So if you strongly disapprove of tax dollars going to public transportation, well then I guess you are in the minority.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 10:34 p.m.

The road you drive is 100% subsidized. This old tired argument is the same one the right wing talks about with trains. I have an idea. Let's make people who drive cars fully fund every road they are on through tolls.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

I'm hardly a techie, but why do the buses idle instead of turning off their engines when they are at the downtown Blake Transit Center? They sit there for over 5 minutes while people transfer and make connections.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 12:35 a.m.

I have often been fairly frustrated at the practice of idling and not shutting down engines for buses, ambulances, police cars, etc. The reason why makes sense though - these vehicles have so many electrical devices on board (lighting, heaters, fans, communications) that without the engine running and powering the alternator, the batteries would run down very, very quickly. It seems like a bus sitting at the station could drop to minimal lighting and power down if they know they'll be parked for more than 5 minutes though. Probably the drivers want to keep the heat blowing strong, too though.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 9:27 p.m.

The Federal government is $15.1 trillion in debt, yet they have money to spend on new buses for Ann Arbor, MI ?


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 6:37 p.m.

John Dingel did not have another bridge to give us, so he gave us busses. It will get him the AA vote, which is what saved him on 2010.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 9:58 p.m.

Yes. One of the few worthy expenditures the Feds make.


Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 9:05 p.m.

"Hybrid buses reduce dependence on foreign oil," So does drilling in America.


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

Do both, it is not an either/or situation. The root of conservative is "conserve".

Russ Miller

Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 1:27 a.m.

Oh, we're drilling! Rig counts for gas and oil are way up in the US and Canada. It makes sense to reduce consumption too... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> The number of rotary rigs drilling for oil increased 5 to 1,201. There are 430 more rigs targeting oil than last year. Rigs drilling for oil represent 59.8% percent of all drilling activity which is the highest percentage in two decades. ---


Sat, Dec 24, 2011 : 12:32 a.m.

Not nearly to the same relative degree of improvement. Hybrid buses use 30-40% less fuel. Drilling holes in every persons front yard in this country would cost us more, and deliver less additional fuel than these type of vehicles can potentially REDUCE our consumption. We need to lower total consumption in ADDITION to importing it from overseas.