May 25, 2009
See numerous senior transit positions — including two CEOs, one assistant general manager, and a senior vice president — in today's Classifieds.
|SPECIAL ISSUE: THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Keeping Passengers Cool in Houston
By MICHAEL P. MELANIPHY, Vice President Public Sector, Motor Coach Industries Inc.
It is no secret that the weather gets hot in Houston. In fact, the temperature inside the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County’s buses can get really high. It is not unusual for the interior temperature of buses parked outside during the midday base period to exceed 130 degrees F.
To provide a comfortable environment for its customers and drivers, Houston Metro must cool the coach interiors prior to the afternoon pullout. Often, this necessitates idling the coaches for 30 minutes or more in the parking lot so the air conditioning system can have an opportunity to work. With a fleet of more than 300 commuter coaches, that is a lot of idling vehicles consuming fossil fuels and putting exhaust fumes in the environment. Metro leaders knew there had to be a better solution.
In 2006, the agency approached Motor Coach Industries to help develop a clean alternative to enhance the customer experience. The solution they found is a shore-power electric air conditioning system.
Metro, MCI, and their supplier partners Hamilton Sunstrand, Sundyne, Carrier, and Cummins worked together to develop this coach configuration, unique in the public transit bus industry. Adding even more green credentials to this project, Metro mandated these coaches be powered by hybrid-electric drive systems.
As a result, the Metro fleet now includes more than 100 hybrid-electric MCI commuter coaches with the capability to be cooled without ever starting the engine. Instead, the vehicles can be plugged into electrical outlets located in the parking spaces at the garage, and the electricity supplied from the grid then powers a new, all-electric air conditioning system.
When it is time for them to pull out, the coaches are unplugged and a 480V, three-phase, 25kVA generator takes over. All of this electrical routing is managed by a newly developed power center that uses technologies from the aviation and rail industries.
An additional passenger amenity that results from this shift to electric accessories is the provision of 110V outlets on board, located along the coach walls next to the passenger seats. Now passengers can plug in their laptops while riding to and from work, making them more productive as well as cool.