February 17, 2011

Metro COO Ray Friem on New MetroBus Emissions Technology & Real-Time Bus Tracking

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Nextstop readers have asked in recent comments about the fuel and emissions technology of the new low-floor buses that Metro is putting into service and will continue take delivery of over the next several years.  During this week’s STLToday.com Metro Live Chat, Chief Operating Officer Ray Friem answered questions about the new buses:

The buses are ULS Diesel (Ultra-Low Sulfur), and they are equipped with state of the art emissions systems that meet the next generation of proposed emissions standards (as we currently understand them). The bus will deliver improved fuel economy, and the emissions system burns particulates, and has a special urea injection system resulting in lower NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions from these buses than the current Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) technology. NOx is probably the leading pollutant in the St. Louis region and is one of the key elements of the few Red air quality days the region experiences. To help manage through [the fuel market], Metro maintains an aggressive fuel hedging program which doesn’t entirely insulate us from fuel prices, but at least smooths out the price spikes.

As for choices of fuel technology, we have already discussed the merits of the existing diesel emissions technology. Word is that the urea system on this bus will be deployed in future CNG buses to reduce NOx emissions from those as well. With comparable emissions results, the choice comes down to two factors; range and life-cycle cost. The CNG buses are approximately 25% more expensive to purchase, and about 20% more expensive to maintain over the life of the bus. This is offset in part by somewhat lower (by today’s standards) fuel costs. As for range, many buses need to go in excess of 450 miles between daily fuelings. On the smaller buses, there simply isn’t the room for fuel storage tanks to meet this requirement. This technology is advancing as well, and we will keep an eye on it for future applications.

Friem also spoke about another popular topic, GPS bus tracking and its implications for passengers:

The entire fleet should be equipped with a GPS system by the end of 2013. The system, which we call the Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) system will allow for more efficient scheduling of the system (monitoring of bus to bus or bus to rail connections most specifically). Once that project is complete, Metro will start another project to take that data and make it available to customers in real time format through cell phone and digital applications. That should really make the system more user friendly.

Thank you to everyone who completed the “How to Encourage Others to Try MetroBus” survey posted last week.  Over 200 people responded, with 84 taking time to add write-in comments on specific strategies to increase bus ridership.  Great job everyone!  Next week, Nextstop will post a comprehensive review of the survey results, and what steps Metro can take to get more people on board with buses.

9 thoughts on “Metro COO Ray Friem on New MetroBus Emissions Technology & Real-Time Bus Tracking”

  1. Dennis KH2 says:

    I have a suggestion for the new buses. It thought that it would be nice to paint a few up for the Forest park Shuttle this summer like it used to in the years past. I hope this post can bring a new addition to the public…Thanks 🙂

  2. iva says:

    So we have to wait for ALL the fleet to get GPS locators (end of 2013) before you will even start to make the data available and people can start using it? That seems like a long time to wait, why not start now?

    1. Courtney says:

      The issue is consistency. The GPS buses do not serve the same routes all the time, so it would be difficult to show data for one route one day, then not the next day.

  3. nA says:

    This is off-topic but certainly not of low importance. Has metro thought of adding any wow factor to its fleet? Be it buses or trains? I am talking about a wow feature that is low-maintenance and low-budget. Something riders and metro can be proud of. Metro can boast that it is first in its peers to introduce that feature. Just a thought…..

    1. Courtney says:

      Working on it, working on it…:)

  4. RTBones says:

    With respect – I don’t want “wow factor.” I want buses and trains that are safe, clean, and on time. Metro does not require another odious gimmick like the 99.

  5. RTBones says:

    As there is no edit button, you get a second comment, Courtney. 🙂

    For my own edification (and that of other readers) – is there a reason the GPS buses are not reserved for one or two lines? (I dont know how many you have in your fleet – my presumption is that it isnt very many at this point.) If you kept the GPS buses on fewer lines, you could update stops / signage along those lines to display the GPS information to passengers.

  6. Informative post, Thanks for taking the time to share with us.

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