New Orleans RTA switches to biodiesel

By Timothy Charles Holmseth | July 14, 2008
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority has purchased 39 buses as replacements in its fleet with plans to fuel them with biodiesel. The buses cost $385,000 each and are part of the city's greening effort.

Initial construction of the buses, conducted by Daimler's Orion brand, was completed in Mississauga, Ontario, with further manufacturing done in the company's facility in Oriskany, N.Y., where seating, engines, transmissions, axles, electrical wires, heating and air conditioning systems, and other components are installed.

"They're just being delivered," said Rosiland Blanco Cook, spokeswoman for the Regional Transit Authority at the end of June. "Twenty are in. The other 19 are expected shortly. We lost 200 [buses] during [Hurricane Katrina]."

Biodiesel-powered buses have made a strong eco-friendly statement across parts of the country as transit systems show their support for the environment. "Other hybrids cost even more," Cook said. "In San Jose, they paid $2.5 million a piece."

The RTA said it understands that biodiesel fuel will cost a little bit more but expressed that a cleaner-burning fuel has many benefits. Cook said the move was well-thought out by the RTA. "We want to change," she said.

The expenses associated with the changes that the RTA has made are already in the budget, and according to Cook, the authority hopes federal money will also become available in the future to support the move.

Obtaining a biodiesel supplier for the buses is also in the works. "We are in the procurement process right now to get the fuel," Cook said.

The transit authority may have similar plans for the future, but its funding is limited. "We haven't got our [Federal Emergency Management Agency] money yet," she said. "We'll probably buy more."
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