Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Boneheaded CARB regulations hurt transit riders

The outcome is clear: the hydrogen fuel cell technology is not ready for primetime.

Why is it relevent? According to the timetable set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), VTA will need to purchase more of these as it replaces older buses.

In order to comply with regulations over transit bus emissions, VTA, along with many transit agencies in the Bay Area, made a choice eight years ago to continue operating diesel buses rather than switching to an alternative fuel such as CNG. In return for not switching to CNG, VTA agreed to experiment and to eventually switch to hydrogen fuel-cell buses. Funding for fuel cell buses was included in the 2000 Measure A.

Three years ago, VTA began its experiment with three fuel cell buses in operation. Because these buses were not as reliable, they were placed as extra unscheduled runs on various routes. The drivers and machanics had to be specially trained to operate and maintain these vehicles. Even though the experiment was officially over, these buses are still operated the same way today as they were three years ago.

While the fuel cell buses may be ready eventually, VTA is running out of options. Diesel hybrid buses, despite their benefits, are not yet approved for use by CARB.

Under a waiver by CARB, San Francisco Muni introduced hybrid buses last year. The hybrids not only reduce pollution and save fuel, they provide a quicker acceleration suitable for busy San Francisco streets. Hybrids have been tested in environments such as New York and Seattle before being introduced in San Francisco.

While CARB's insistence of pushing the fuel cell technology could be viewed as visionary, riders and operators alike prefer more economical and practical solutions. Diesel and hybrid buses, despite their pollution, are still cleaner than the automobiles riders could've driven.

In order to make transit an attractive option to automobiles, transit has to be both affordable and reliable, which neither fuel cell buses can provide for now. CARB will do more for the environment by encouraging transit use than by their boneheaded push for a new technology.


Jonah P said...

Absolutely! VTA needs all the help it can get making good decisions, and we shouldn't be forcing them to squander money and personnel on bad technology.

295bus said...

Basically: transit riders get no respect! Even a lot of people who are theoretically "pro-transit", and who may be happy to see the govt shell out more $$$ for it, really don't give a crap about whether it actually helps out us folks who ride it.