APTA | Passenger Transport
August 3, 2009

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Riverside, CA: A Champion of Green Technology
BY BRADLEY WEAVER, Marketing Manager, Riverside Transit Agency, Riverside, CA

The Riverside Transit Agency (RTA), which has provided public bus service for California’s western Riverside County for more than 30 years, has long been a champion of cleaner, greener technologies and practices in public transit.

RTA has pioneered the use of cleaner-burning fuels in its bus operations and, as concern grows over climate change, continues to explore innovative approaches to expand its influence in more environmentally positive ways.

RTA is also an agency that encourages energy efficiency, recycling, and carpooling among its 400-plus employees. When it comes to environmental responsibility and sustainability, RTA continues to reach new heights year after year.

Making History
RTA was an environmentally conscious transit organization long before much of the nation was “thinking green.”

In 1988, prior to today’s laws regulating bus emissions, RTA was among the first transit systems in the nation to operate low-emission buses, in this case powered by methanol. In fact, when RTA built its Riverside headquarters in 1986, it included a separate fueling system for alternative clean fuels—a rare thing at a time when diesel was the king of fuels.

The agency’s drive for cleaner fuel didn’t stop there. In 2001, it took its biggest step by replacing its entire fleet of diesel buses with vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG). Despite the heftier price tag—each CNG bus cost nearly $50,000 more than a similar diesel bus—RTA wanted to make a statement about its commitment to cleaner air.

Today, RTA employs 127 CNG vehicles, including buses, trolleys, and company vehicles.

Our use of CNG fuel not only saves the environment; it saves the agency roughly $1.8 million a year, compared to diesel fuel.

“RTA has long been a champion of cleaner, greener technologies and practices in public transit, and we want our customers to know how much of an impact they have on the environment by riding,” said RTA Chairman of the Board Karen Spiegel.

Finding New Power Sources
The agency recently launched two pilot programs that could reduce its vehicle fuel consumption, cut emissions, and improve bus engine performance.

One of the programs included the installation of electric radiator fans in an RTA bus to determine how well they perform compared to buses that use hydraulic fans. As part of the other, RTA worked with the Korean engine manufacturer Doosan to develop a cleaner-burning, more fuel-efficient CNG engine; if it is successful, RTA could expand such technology to its entire fleet.

Later this year, RTA plans to equip one of its buses with new technology that relies on kinetic energy and hydraulic power. If this process works, it could go a long way in reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

The agency also has targeted its own facilities for enhanced energy efficiency, replacing high-wattage lighting fixtures in its bus barn and offices with low-energy fixtures such as fluorescent bulbs. The agency is also installing motion sensors in its buildings that control lighting and energy-conserving thermostats that regulate office temperatures.

RTA knows there’s no better time to invest in cleaner technologies. After all, Americans are riding public transportation at record levels, marking a 52-year high with 10.7 billion trips taken in 2008.

With that kind of demand, and RTA’s unwavering commitment to making a difference, there’s no telling how far we’ll go.

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