Making the Bus Cool

  • Bus lines like Megabus are attracting new riders with cheap rates, direct routes, and perks like free wi-fi. (Photo by Tamara Keith)

Buses are one of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel. But for years, the bus has had an image problem. The Environment Report’s Tamara Keith tells us that could be changing:

Transcript

Buses are one of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel. But for years, the bus has had an image problem. The Environment Report’s Tamara Keith tells us that could be changing:

I swear I’m not a snob, but up until a couple of months ago I wouldn’t have been caught dead on a bus. Come on, the thought of being trapped for hours with potentially smelly strangers on some rundown, grimy bus –well– it’s just not all that appealing.

But, there’s a new genre of motor coach travel out there and it’s making the intercity bus cool again (or maybe cool for the first time).

In a downtown Washington DC parking lot, Lauren Kessler is waiting to board a Bolt Bus to New York City. It’s a shiny black and red bus with a bold lightning bolt on the side.

“I’ve never taken Greyhound. I would take Amtrak or fly but those are both much more expensive.”

What Kessler doesn’t know is this is a Greyhound bus. The company launched the Bolt brand last spring. Giselle Carr doesn’t realize it either, until I point out the fine print on the side of the bus: “operated by Greyhound.”

“I did not know that. Yeah it says right there, operator Greyhound. Oh, so they’re changing their strategy. Interesting.”

It’s not your father’s Greyhound. Gone are bus terminals. Bolt picks up curbside in just a few major east coast cities. Delivering passengers from one happening downtown to another with no stops in between. It’s cheaper than the traditional bus lines and there are some pretty nice amenities too, says Greyhound spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh.

“We have free wi-fi, extended leg room, power plug ins. It’s a very sleek brand.”

And she says it’s been an incredibly successful brand.

“We actually broke even financially in May 2008, which is just a couple months after launching which was phenomenal and exceeded all our expectations. And every month we see a larger ridership than the month before.”

Bolt isn’t the only one. MegaBus, operated by Coach USA, started in the Midwest in 2006. It now serves 14 cities with its double-decker wi-fi enabled buses. Each bus holds 81 people, and, Coach USA President Dale Moser says, most of them would have driven if not for the bus.

“And I would have told you 3 years ago that it was going to be a challenge to change a culture and get Americans out of their automobile. But we’re finding that there is a large contingency out there that is looking for something like this and it just continues to grow.”

These bus lines can thank regulars like Raphael Fuchs-Simon for their success. If there was a uniform for a hipster, it might just be what he’s wearing: red framed 80s sunglasses, a soccer jersey and one of those Peruvian Alpaca sweaters.

“Sometimes I drive but there’s no point. It’s 22 dollars dude. Get out of here. It’s like a lunchtime meal in Manhattan.”

He’s pretty stoked about the green credentials, that come with his chosen mode of travel. Joe Schwieterman has actually crunched the numbers. He’s a transportation professor at DePaul University in Chicago.

“You can get 200, 300 even more passenger miles per gallon of fuel burned and you just compare to that to a private automobile, it can be a 10-fold increase in fuel efficiency.”

And, Schwieterman says, just in the last couple of years intercity bus transportation has had a remarkable revival.

“The growth has been roughly about 8 percent a year, so the mode is growing much faster than air travel or automobile travel or even rail travel. The bus kind of stands alone for an industry that’s growing in some pretty tough economic times.”

That’s even with gas costing just half what it did last summer. For The Environment Report, I’m Tamara Keith.

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Chicago Looks to Beijing for Green Olympics Lessons

  • This is not your typical diesel-burning bus. Beijing now boasts the world’s largest fleet running on compressed natural gas. (Photo by Violet Law)

The Olympics in Beijing are into its final week. The city has delivered blue skies and
taken other steps to make the games environmentally friendly. Meanwhile, the City of
Chicago is bidding to host a green Olympics in 2016. The bid committee members are at
the games to observe. Violet Law is in Beijing and has this report:

Transcript

The Olympics in Beijing are into its final week. The city has delivered blue skies and
taken other steps to make the games environmentally friendly. Meanwhile, the City of
Chicago is bidding to host a green Olympics in 2016. The bid committee members are at
the games to observe. Violet Law is in Beijing and has this report:

(sound of a bus pulling up and announcing the stop)

As more Chinese are getting richer they are driving more. But most still catch the bus to
the Olympic venues, because there’s no parking for spectators. Officials have added
special bus routes to take people to the games – for free.

(sound of a bus pulling away)

But this is not your typical diesel-burning bus. Beijing now boasts the world’s largest
fleet running on compressed natural gas. That means less pollution and CO2 emissions.

Doug Arnot is in Beijing. He oversees the planning of operations and sports venues for
Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics. He says Chicago can do even better if it gets to
host the games.

“We believe that by 2016 all of our buses and all of our vehicles in the Olympic fleet will
be alternative energy or hybrid vehicles. That will have a huge impact on the
environmental imprint if you will of the Olympic Games.”

(sound of an English-language announcement of an Olympic venue stop on Beijing
subway and the noise of the train speeding through the tunnel)

Beijing has had to tackle a host of environmental problems. Most people know about the
city’s massive efforts to clean the air. But it also opened five new subway lines just in
time for the Olympics. Its added wind power generators.

But hosting the Olympics might have made one problem worse.

(sound of water fountain)

Beijing already has a water shortage. For the Olympics, workers planted trees and
flowers and added thirsty landscaping all over the city. New parkland and an urban forest
form the bulk of the Olympic Green.

‘Friends of Nature’ is the country’s oldest grassroots environmental group. Zhang Boju is
the head of research. He’s torn over seeing all this greenery.

“We think this grassland and man-made forest is a very, very important part of greener
Beijing, but it also has some problems. Is this fit for Beijing, a city which has limited
water resource?”

Hosting the Olympics has spurred the government to open up new facilities to recycle
water.

Achim Steiner heads the United Nations Environmental Programme. Steiner says he’s
pleased to see that China has seized the opportunity. His agency will issue a report
assessing the environmental impact of the Beijing games by the end of this year.

“What the Olympic Games provided was an opportunity to showcase and create a
platform to demonstrate what is possible if you’re determined to address these issues. A
great deal has been done and shown in the last seven years. What we are looking for here
is what kind of long lasting improvement the Games have brought.”

Beijing will take advantage of all these improvements. All of the newly built venues will
stay. Some, including the iconic Bird’s Nest and Water Cube, will be converted into
commercial use. The wind power generators will produce enough energy for 100,000
families.

There are also small things that show how hosting the Olympics has made Beijing a
greener city. Doug Arnot of the Chicago bid committee is taking notice.

“Every event you go to sometimes it’s not the big idea that you see, but the smaller idea
that you see. One of the things I’ve noticed is the staff and volunteers and the way they
have addressed green issues. They’re very conscious of where the recycling waste
baskets are. That may seem to be a small issue. But when you have tens of thousands of
people at your venues on a daily basis, it is very important.”

And Chicago is hoping both the small things and the big changes in its environmental
approach will win it a chance to host a green Olympics in 2016.

For The Environment Report, this is Violet Law.

Related Links

Hydrogen Powered Buses

Ford Motor Company is rolling out a small fleet
of hydrogen powered shuttle buses in the US and Canada.
The company says its one small step toward a future
without oil. Dustin Dwyer reports:

Transcript

Ford Motor Company is rolling out a small fleet
of hydrogen powered shuttle buses in the US and Canada.
The company says its one small step toward a future
without oil. Dustin Dwyer reports:

Ford will have a total of 30 hydrogen powered shuttle buses spread around North America, from Florida to
Vancouver, British Columbia.

Most test projects with hydrogen vehicles these days involve a fuel cell. But Ford is using hydrogen to
power a mostly conventional internal combustion engine.

Ford says that means there’s less research to be done, and the buses could be mass produced
earlier.

But Ford’s John Lapetz says the problem is still: where would you fill it up?

“Realistically, you gotta look at the infrastructure to refuel these kind of vehicles, you gotta look at the public policies that go around those kinds
of things, because you’re talking about not a significant change in the vehicle, but a significant change in
the way the vehicle is received in the community.”

Another problem is cost. Ford says each of its hydrogen buses now cost 250 thousand dollars.

For the The Environment Report, I’m Dustin Dwyer.

Related Links

Returning Quality Food to Urban Areas

  • Chene Street, on Detroit's east side, was once a thriving retail corridor. Now, it's a decimated stretch of crumbling and burned-out buildings. (Photo by Marla Collum)

Finding a big supermarket is next to impossible in many inner-city
neighborhoods. That means a lot of people do their shopping at convenience
and liquor stores, where there’s rarely fresh produce. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports on one group’s efforts to get around
the grocery store problem – and help revitalize a neighborhood:

Transcript

Finding a big supermarket is next to impossible in many inner-city neighborhoods. That means a lot of people do their shopping at convenience and liquor stores, where there’s rarely fresh produce. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports on one group’s efforts to get around the grocery store problem and help revitalize a neighborhood:


(Sound of traffic)


Up and down this street as far as the eye can see are crumbling and burned-out buildings. This used to be a thriving business district. It’s where Vlasic Pickle, White Owl Cigar, and Lay’s Potato Chips grew into national brands. Today, the most evident sign of commerce is the prostitutes walking the street. Smack in the middle of this is Peacemaker’s International. It’s a storefront church where Ralph King is a member.


“Now if you look at it you see that there’s no commercial activity, no grocery stores within a mile of here. And our concern was that people had to eat.”


There are about seven liquor stores for every grocery store here on the east side of Detroit. Some people can drive to the well-stocked supermarkets in the suburbs, but many families don’t have cars, and King says the city busses are spotty.


“So they’re buying food at convenience stores or gas stations. And quite frankly, it just doesn’t seem a good fit that a community has to live off gas station food.”


That means processed, high-starch, high-fat diets that lead to illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Those are all problems that disproportionately hit African Americans, and public health researchers say those higher rates of illnesses are linked to the food availability problems in poor black communities.


Amy Schulz is with the University of Michigan, and she’s studied the lack of grocery stores in high-poverty neighborhoods.


“What we found, in addition to the economic dimension was that Detroit, neighborhoods like the east side that are disproportionately African American are doubly disadvantaged in a sense. Residents in those communities have to drive longer, farther distances to access a grocery store than residents of a comparable economic community with a more diverse racial composition.”


In other words, if you’re poor and white, you have a better chance of living near a grocery store than if you’re poor and black. Ralph King and the folks in this neighborhood want to get around that problem. So about three years ago, they decided to try and reopen a nearby farmer’s market. They turned to Michigan State University Extension for help. Mike Score is an extension agent.


“I thought it would just be the process of organizing some people, helping them buy some produce wholesale, setting up in the neighborhood, selling the food, and generating a net income that could be reinvested. And I was really wrong.”


The farmer’s market was a flop. Score says produce vendors set up in the neighborhood, but the fruits and vegetables sat all day, unsold. He says the problem was they were using the wrong currency. Most people in this neighborhood have very little cash on hand, and they need to use their food stamp cards to shop for groceries.


So, Score helped develop a plan for a neighborhood buyers’ club that can negotiate low prices by ordering in bulk. His business plan also calls for job training for people in the neighborhood.


“It’s going to give people who are chronically unemployed but who have some entrepreneurial skills access to food at a lower cost, and that enables them to think about starting restaurant businesses or smaller retail businesses. So that’s an important part of this project: in addition to getting people groceries, it also creates some job opportunities.”


It’s been a struggle to get the program off the ground. It took a long time to get approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a machine to read peoples’ food stamp cards. People have stolen some of the project’s meager resources, but Mike Score and Ralph King say they’ll stick with it until families in this neighborhood can put decent food on their tables. And they say they hope it can be a model that other low-income communities around the country can use.


For the GLRC, I’m Sarah Hulett.

Related Links

Empty Busses Need Snappy Ad Campaign

Go into any store these days and chances are you’ll find a bargain: buy two shirts and get one free… or buy a burger and get another one half-price. Retailers market their products with attractive deals because they know it works. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Julia King thinks it’s time to use that marketing magic to get more of us to “buy into” public transportation:

Transcript

Go into any store these days and chances are you’ll find a bargain: buy two shirts and get
one free… or buy a burger and get another one half-price. Retailers market their products
with attractive deals because they know it works. Great Lakes Radio Consortium
commentator, Julia King, thinks it’s time to use that marketing magic to get more of us to
“buy into” public transportation:


A couple years back, my smallish Northern Indiana town got an honest-to-goodness
PUBLIC BUS. Progressive types started walkin’ a little taller, a little prouder – because,
well, when you have a BUS it means you live in a place where somebody cares.


Our bus is such a good thing, in fact, that people hate to talk about the one little problem:
(whisper) nobody ever rides it. Okay, that’s not exactly true. Last Tuesday, my
neighbor’s friend thought she saw someone in the very last row on the right hand side.


I’m just BARELY exaggerating. There are really only two kinds of people who ever get
on our bus: hardcore greenie tree-huggers… and those who have no other form of
transportation.


So, now, with tight government budgets and higher gas prices, some cost-conscious
citizens are rightly taking a closer look at our not-so-public public transportation.


In a letter to a local paper, one man put it this way: “I would prefer not having taxpayers’
dollars go literally up in fumes.” He suggested we have two choices: put the bus out of
its misery, or get more people to RIDE it.


According to the American Public Transportation Association, we could reduce our oil
dependence by about 40% – almost the amount we import from Saudi Arabia in a year –
if Americans would use public transportation for just 10% of our daily travel.


You know, radio stations hand out cash and concert tickets to attract listeners; television
stations lure viewers with home makeovers; cola companies entice customers with
everything from free soda to a chance at a BILLION dollars.


What do bus riders get for their trouble? Hmmm? Oh yeah – more trouble. If it’s hot, or
cold, or raining, and there’s a comfortable car ten feet away in the garage, taking a bus is
work.


In large cities, where drivers compete for rare and costly parking spaces, public
transportation offers tangible rewards in the way of convenience and affordability. But in
communities with plenty of space and manageable traffic – if you have a car – the only
reasons to ride a bus are long-term, big picture, goody-goody reasons like ozone
reduction, energy conservation and curbing global warming.


Here’s where the public sector can use a little private-sector know-how. Catchy jingles,
cash prizes, gift certificates at shops along the bus routes, maybe chocolate
riders need something in the here and now. Like anything else Americans buy, public
transportation is a product. It’s time to start selling it.


Host Tag: Julia King can be found riding the bus… alone… in Goshen, Indiana. She
comes to us by way of the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

Related Links

Parents Campaign for Cleaner School Buses

  • School buses might be considered one of the safest ways for kids to get to school, but research suggests the sooty diesel exhaust is also putting their health at risk. The Environmental Protection Agency is trying several demonstration projects to clean up school buses in some schools nationwide. Parents are also becoming part of a nationwide campaign to get buses to stop idling. (Photo by Erika Johnson)

In the last few years, researchers have discovered links between the exhaust fumes from diesel buses and rising asthma rates in children. Scientists and environmentalists have called on the government to crack down on diesel emissions from school buses. But as parents learn about the risk to their kids, they’re not waiting around for the government. They’re doing something right now to help reduce their kids’ exposure to the exhaust fumes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erika Johnson reports:

Transcript

In the last few years, researchers have discovered links between the exhaust fumes from diesel
buses and rising asthma rates in children. Scientists and environmentalists have called on the
government to crack down on diesel emissions from school buses. But as parents learn about the
risk to their kids, they’re not waiting around for the government. They’re doing something right
now to help reduce their kids’ exposure to the exhaust fumes. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Erika Johnson reports:


(sound of diesel school buses idling)


At the end of the school day, buses sit, often idling their engines, waiting for the dismissal bell
and the kids to get on. Not every school district uses diesel school buses, but many do.
And when their engines are left running, they constantly spew out a sooty diesel exhaust that’s
hard to avoid.


(sound of kids)


“It’s an unnatural smell, kind of like plastic…”
“Smells like a car…”
“…Plastic and gas.”
“It smells like gasoline…”
“…But it stinks…”


Kids don’t like the smell of the exhaust, and parents are finding that the diesel fumes are doing
more than just creating a nasty stench – it’s putting their kids’ health at risk.


Sally Cole-Misch says for a long time, she never thought much about it. The yellow buses were
just a part of the daily routine:


“Well, you know, you never think that when you take your child and put them on the bus and
wave goodbye, you think, oh, they’re safe, no problem. And I started noticing the buses at the
schools, how they did idle, and started thinking, this is important, this is something really we need
to be focusing on.”


Cole-Misch was concerned about her kid’s exposure to the exhaust fumes. But rather than simply
taking her kids off the school bus, she decided she wanted to do something for all of the children
in her community. So, she and other concerned parents began meeting with a local
environmental group. They came to the conclusion that the best way to get rid of the diesel
fumes was for bus drivers to turn off their engines while waiting for the kids. As part of their
anti-idling campaign, they’re pushing their school district in Bloomfield, Michigan, to have bus
engines turned off until the buses are loaded up and ready to leave for their routes. During cold
weather, bus drivers can keep warm inside the schools, and then heat up the buses as soon as the
kids get on.


Cole-Misch says as parents learn about the issue, they’re getting involved in the anti-idling
campaign:


“I think this is the type of issue that the solution is so easy, in that in most school districts all you
have to do is give the parents the information, and I think it’s something that they can easily act
on.”

And the Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Counsel, also known as EMEAC, is doing just
that. The group is providing information to parents and is promoting the idea to local school
board officials.


Libby Harris is Staff Attorney for EMEAC. She says getting the parents involved has made their
campaign successful:


“Without the parents there, the school officials are going to respond that it’s a good idea, but they
are faced with a tremendous number of requests for programs. Having the parents there is a
direct statement. ‘This is a health issue, I’m concerned about it, and I really want you to take this
seriously and to take steps.'”


Concern over the health effects of diesel exhaust stems from the rising asthma rates reported
among children. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that nearly 5 million children
nationwide have the disease. Although no one knows exactly what causes asthma, scientists say
many of its triggers are found in the air we breathe. Recent air toxics studies have shown that
particulate matter, the soot released from diesel trucks and buses, is a leading air pollutant.


Dr. Thomas Robbins is a Professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health:


“It is quite possible that a substantial fraction of the total diesel exposure, even total particulate
exposure, a child is going to experience during the day could be associated with school buses, and
so it’s potentially quite an important problem.”


And the government is also doing something about this growing public health problem, and has
tried several demonstration projects. EPA’s Clean School Bus U.S.A. Program is supporting
sixteen school districts nationwide with a small grant to participate in projects, such as using
cleaner diesel fuels, and retrofitting school buses with pollution control devices. The ultimate
goal is that these projects will become models for states to follow:


Jeff Holmstead is head of EPA’s National Air Pollution Control Program. Holmstead says all
diesel engines are to be replaced or retrofitted by the year 2010. But he says even with the stricter
standards, it’ll take some time to replace the older buses with cleaner ones:


“One of the reasons for this program is because diesel engines have such a long lifetime, it will
take many years, probably out to 2020 and 2030 for the newer engines to replace the existing
fleet. And that will take a little time and we’re just trying to expedite that process, and make it
happen as quickly as we can.”


But the problem now is that there isn’t enough funding to support programs like this in schools
nationwide. That’s why many schools and environmental groups, such as EMEAC, have turned
to anti-idling campaigns. They’re working with what they do have – and that’s the support of
their local community – until they have the funding for larger scale programs. Anti-idling
campaigns are becoming a growing trend in schools nationwide, and some states such as
Minnesota and Connecticut already have anti-idling laws in place.


Libby Harris of EMEAC says the energy behind their campaign starts with the local community:


“Once EPA announced its Clean School Bus U.S.A. Program, we saw that the momentum was
there, that by working with other organizations and inviting parents and members of PTO’s and
school officials, we had a good chance of making a difference and reducing the exposure that kids
have to school bus exhaust. And to reduce the amount of idling is something that can be done
without any cost.”


Not only realizing that school bus diesel exhaust is putting their kids health at risk, but that they
can do something even without any funding at all, more parents such as Cole-Misch have decided
not to wait around for diesel engine phase-outs or government programs. Instead, they’re pushing
their school districts to start doing something right now about the diesel fumes their kids are
breathing. And they feel progress starts when the buses are turned off.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Erika Johnson.

Related Links

Governments Grapple With Regional Transport

Many large cities throughout the Midwest have been struggling with issues such as urban sprawl. Getting workers from one area to the jobs in another has become a transportation challenge. Building multi-lane highways only seems to encourage more sprawl, so many cities have worked with surrounding suburbs to build mass transit systems for the entire metropolitan region. For one major city, political leaders are just now getting around to making that happen and as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jerome Vaughn reports… even now it’s not going to be easy:

Transcript

Many large cities throughout the Midwest have been struggling with
issues such as urban sprawl. Getting workers from one area to the jobs
in another has become a transportation challenge. Building multi-lane
highways only seems to encourage more sprawl. So many cities have worked
with surrounding suburbs to build mass transit systems for the entire
metropolitan region. For one major city, political leaders are just now
getting around to making that happen. And as the Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Jerome Vaughn reports… even now it’s not
going to be easy:


Detroit is the 10th largest city in the country…and it’s had more than
its share of struggles over issues such as chronic unemployment, poverty,
and pollution.


Finding solutions to those intractable problems has long been a goal of
government leaders in the area. But over the past three decades…they’ve lacked
one tool… used by most other metropolitan areas
around the country…that can make a difference. A regional transportation
system.


But that’s about to change.


Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has joined Detroit Mayor Kwame
Kilpatrick…and the heads of the three largest counties in Metro
Detroit…to announce the formation of the Detroit Area Regional
Transportation Authority…otherwise known as DARTA.


The new regional transportation authority is backed by local governments,
business interests ..and mass transit proponents. The government leaders have
signed an agreement to work towards the regional transportation
system. Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick says the new deal will benefit the
city AND suburbs.


“This is a real people thing today. It’s also an economic thing…and it’s
rare when these two things come together. This will drive the economic
engine of the state. To move people to jobs…leads to economic
independence.”


The agreement is the first step towards ending decades of debate over how
best to get workers from their homes to their jobs. With many Detroiters
living below the poverty level…owning a car is impossible. But that can
mean taking several buses over a span of three hours just to get to work
each day.


That type of commute is what DARTA proponents, like such as Attorney Richard
Bernstein hope to end. As a blind man…he’s unable to drive to get
where he needs to go. He says Detroit’s lack of coordinated mass
transportation pushed him to become a transit activist a couple of years
ago.


“As a disabled person who can’t drive…I struggle for my independence and I
struggle for my freedom. And DARTA is the only hope that someone like me
has in order to lead a quality of life here in Southeast Michigan.”


Bernstein says he’d like to have that extra measure of independence. But he
says…right now…it’s impossible for him to get around town on his
own…given the current state of mass transit in Metro Detroit.


“For me right now …it isn’t that regional transit is difficult to
use…it’s that it’s non existent …that is the issue. Ultimately, if I want
to get from my house …or my apartment to my office. There is no bus I can
take. There is no bus I can take from my office to court.”


But Bernstein’s passion for regional transportation isn’t uniformly shared.
The original measure creating DARTA was vetoed by former Governor John
Engler last year as one of his final acts in office. The state legislature
tried to resurrect the bill in January…but it has subsequently
stalled…pushing the new governor, Jennifer Granholm and Detroit Mayor Kwame
Kilpatrick and others to find alternate ways routes to create a working agreement.


The opponents say the regional transportation system is not fair. State
Representative Leon Drolet opposes DARTA because he says his more rural
constituents shouldn’t be taxed for a bus system they’ll never use. He wants a
provision that would let communities “opt-out” of the DARTA if they choose. The
Republican legislator says he also concerned because there’s no plan to pay for
DARTA yet. And he says no one’s convinced him that such a system is really
needed in Metro Detroit…home of the Big Three automakers..


“Macomb, Oakland suburban Wayne communities…those are built around the
car. Everywhere there’s a parking lot. Boston, Washington DC, New
York…those communities…mass transit is very viable in the inner areas
because it costs 30 bucks a day or 50 bucks a day to park your car. And
that’s what drives people to mass transit…the inconvenience of driving
your car.”


But automakers say they want the regional mass transit system. The
Southeastern Michigan Council of Government’s Transportation
Expert…Carmine Palombo…says many of the region’s businesses are having a
hard time getting workers from their homes to their jobs. And that includes
the Big Three automakers…who have come out in favor of DARTA.


“The auto company themselves employ people who need to have good transit in
order to get to their jobs…and so they’re feeling the pinch…just like
every other employer is who wants to get…make sure they get to the jobs
they have to offer in a stable environment. So the car companies aren’t the
problem.”


(sound up – bus)


While the Detroit Area Regional Transportation Authority agreement has been
signed….the work is just beginning for transit activists in
Metro-Detroit. The current agreement only provides for planning a
regional transportation system. There’s currently no money for
implementation of ANY plan.


And DARTA opponents such as Leon Drolet are still on the job, too. He’s
charging that the chairman of his county…had no authority to sign
the DARTA agreement…and is asking the State’s Attorney
General to investigate.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jerome Vaughn.

Stricter Rules for Heavy Equipment Emissions?

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new clean-air standards for some diesel-powered equipment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new clean-air standards for some diesel
powered equipment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:


The EPA’s new rules would cut the soot and pollution that’s belched by off-road diesel vehicles
such as bulldozers and farm tractors. Frank O’Donnell is with the environmental group Clean Air
Trust.


“Currently there are very minimal controls on big diesel heavy equipment and the fuel itself is
extremely dirty. It’s virtually unregulated. And this EPA proposal will go a long way, over time,
making a significant reduction in the diesel pollution coming from heavy equipment.”


The EPA projects the new rules will prevent almost ten-thousand premature deaths each year
once the standards are fully phased in. But, that’ll take a while with the last of the dirty vehicles
probably taken out of service around the year 2030.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Study Highlights Cost-Benefits of Cleaner Buses

A new Harvard study indicates that of two new types of alternative fuels for urban buses, it might be better in the long run to go with the cheaper fuel. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

A new Harvard study indicates that of two new types of alternative fuels for urban buses, it might
be better in the long run to go with the cheaper fuel. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester
Graham reports:


Soot spewing diesel buses will soon be a thing of the past. But two different alternative fuels are
being considered for mass transit buses. One is compressed natural gas. The other is a low
sulfur-filtered diesel called emission controlled diesel.


A Harvard School of Public Health study of the fuel systems appears in the current issue of the
journal Environmental Science and Technology. Senior Researcher, Joshua Cohen says
compressed natural gas buses might be cleaner, but the health benefits cost six to nine times more
than the same health benefits of the clean diesel.


“If you spend your money on compressed natural gas buses, you’re not going to be able to buy as
many new clean buses as you could if you bought the clean diesel buses. So, that’s an important
consideration to keep in mind.”


So, while a single bus burning compressed natural gas might be cleaner, it’s so much more
expensive that, system-wide, it might be more beneficial to the environment to use the cheaper
clean diesel system in more buses.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.