Higher Energy Prices are Putting Pressure on Operating Budget Study to Provide Short and Long Term Energy Solutions for CTA
The Chicago Transit Authority's use of measures to combat rising fuel costs and improve fuel efficiency across its bus fleet are already proving to be successful for the agency. Despite an increase in the miles traveled, strategic adjustments have lowered the amount of fuel used and increased the average miles per gallon (mpg) for the bus fleet.
CTA is aggressively seeking ways to manage rising fuel costs and mitigate their impact on the CTA's budget. CTA's Budget Office calculates that every $0.10 change in the price per gallon of fuel increases expenses by $2.4 million. With fuel prices at $4.53 per gallon as of May 26, the CTA could potentially accrue fuel expenses of $25 million over what was budgeted this year.
In May 2007, the CTA bus fleet averaged 2.76 mpg, accumulated more than 6.17 million miles and used nearly 2.23 million gallons of ultra low sulfur diesel fuel. Despite an increase in mileage of nearly 35,000, for a total of 6.20 million miles in May 2008, the fleet's average miles per gallon improved to 3.27 and fuel consumption decreased by 335,500 gallons to 1.89 million gallons.
"Through simple measures such as relocating where some of our buses begin their routes; redesigning our newer buses to be lighter in weight; and limiting the use of our older, less efficient buses, the CTA saved 335,500 gallons of gas in May 2008 versus May of last year," said CTA President Ron Huberman. "With the rising cost of ultra low sulfur diesel fuel, this equates to approximately $1.2 million in savings for the CTA in one month. We're eager to see the continued improvement in these areas as more of our aging buses are retired and replaced with more fuel efficient, low emission buses and hybrid buses that will begin arriving late this summer."
"This study will provide us with useful tools of analysis as we continue to aggressively look for ways to manage our costs and improve our performance," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. "With the growing demand for public transit, this study is important in continuing to offer our customers affordable and reliable service."
On Wednesday, the Chicago Transit Board also approved a $113,000 contract for a transportation energy study to identify short-term solutions to reduce bus energy costs and long-term strategies to improve fuel efficiency. The study will also include recommendations on new technologies and alternate power sources, as well as other measures to reduce fuel consumption and provide options for sustainable energy.
"The efficient use of energy, whether fuel for buses or electricity for trains, is critical for our operations as well as the impact it has on the environment," added Huberman. "Fuel costs are certainly the immediate focus today, but this study will also allow us to better plan for the future."
Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Inc. will conduct the transportation energy study. Funding for the study is provided by federal funds allocated by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
Other energy efficiency measures already in progress at the CTA include accelerating the purchase of 150 articulated hybrid buses manufactured by New Flyer Industries. By assuming the last contract option from King County Metro, Seattle's public transit agency, the CTA was able to lock in savings of $60,000 on the purchase price of each hybrid bus.
The CTA estimates that the hybrid technology will save the agency nearly $7 million annually in maintenance, parts and labor costs over buses currently in service including more than $900,000 annually in fuel costs. The CTA will begin receiving the buses this summer and have all 150 by spring 2009 instead of the original schedule of late 2010.
In addition, before completing its order for 400 low-emission 40-foot buses from New Flyer of America, Inc., the CTA was able to reduce the weight of these new buses by approximately 1,000 lbs. By switching from a stainless steel chassis to carbon steel and by using a smaller, more efficient engine, the gas mileage increased from 3.18 mpg to 3.28 mpg.
Each of the 400 buses is expected to average 40,000 miles per year in travel making the annual savings in fuel costs more than $565,000, just by operating a lighter vehicle. Furthermore, because the newer buses are 38% more fuel efficient than the buses they are replacing, the total savings to the CTA over the anticipated 12-year life span of the buses is nearly $80 million. The CTA began taking delivery of the new low emission buses earlier this year, with 110 currently in service, and expects to have all 400 by spring 2009.
Combined, the CTA expects that these steps will save $ 91.5 million over the 12-year average life of the buses compared to the costs to operate the current fleet of buses.
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