Metro Transit goes greener

Rides on about 20 new hybrid buses will be free today.

Taking public transportation instead of driving is one step that many Twin Cities residents already take to reduce their impact on the environment. Metro Transit is also doing its part to “go green” by adding hybrid buses to its fleet. While the cost of the hybrids is considerably high, Metro Transit’s “Go Greener” campaign is a noble effort that positively affects riders in more ways than one.

Starting today, about 20 more hybrids will be added to the Metro Transit fleet that previously only included three hybrids. In the next five years, Metro Transit plans to have a total of 150 hybrid buses.

The new buses will be recognizable by their “Go Greener” motif. Those running on routes 17 and 18, which run along Nicollet Mall, will be free today, and there will be a bus following other routes which will offer free rides on a regular basis.

But the benefits don’t stop there. Metro Transit is expecting the buses to have 22 percent better fuel efficiency than regular buses. The totality of the “Go Greener” campaign would reduce Metro Transit’s emissions by 168 tons per year. The hybrids will run on the same biodiesel that regular buses run on.

Other cities have already found success in implementing hybrid buses into their transit systems. Seattle had over 200 hybrid buses by 2005, and is seeing fuel efficiency rates that are sometimes as high as 30 to 40 percent.

The campaign also shows that it isn’t always easy to go green. The buses cost about $200,000 more than regular buses, and they will only get about one mile per gallon. Giving away free rides will not make up that difference.

Metro Transit also considered other technologies, like buses that run on compressed natural gas, but found hybrids to be the best option to help them transition into a more environmentally friendly transit system. Compressed natural gas technologies would have required the implementation of new refueling stations.

While the benefits of hybrid buses don’t severely exceed the costs, we commend the “Go Greener” campaign.