Mesa Public Schools near Phoenix took a next step toward boasting the first fleet of school buses in the nation to be entirely powered by propane-autogas.
The largest school district in Arizona recently brought its fleet grand total to 89 after purchasing 61 additional school buses: 55 Blue Bird Propane Powered Vision 77-passenger buses and six 42-passenger, wheelchair-accessible buses. The district said it is saving more than $0.37 per mile in operating costs and with the new buses expects to save $4.43 million in total operating costs over a five-year period. Ron Latko, director of Mesa Public Schools, said that "signifcant" number can be appreciated by anyone who works in the school bus industry.
"We are fortunate to have bond funds for this purchase. But moving forward, the funds for new bus acquisitions will come from the unbelievable fuel savings we experience from our existing propane autogas buses," added Latko.
The district has a total of 544 buses in its fleet that transport about 20,000 students per day.
The propane-autogas buses are slated to reduce emissions by 2,789 tons during the coming year, said Latko, which should only improve the district's standing as 2012 Arizona Clean Air Champion, a recognition awarded by the state Clean Cities Coalition and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. And Mesa will add to its propane fleet as older, diesel school buses age out.
The Propane-Powered Vision utilizes a ROUSH CleanTech propane-autgas fuel system and Ford 6.8-liter engine and meets all EPA and CARB certifications. Phil Horlock, Blue Bird's president and CEO, said the Vision also decreases operating noise at the same time it lowers emissions and operating costs while utilizing a domestically produced alternative fuel.
"The Propane-Powered Vision is a smart choice for any school system, and Mesa Public Schools is a leader in affirming that this clean fuel reduces the total cost of ownership," added Phil Horlock.
Editor's note — The upcoming July edition of School Transportation News magazine features an article that discusses alt-fuel and other sustainability programs implemented at Mesa Public Schools.