A panel discussion at the Advanced Clean Transportation EXPO in Long Beach, California next month will see student transportation professionals and clean energy experts sharing tips to maximize available funding for alternatively-fueled school buses.
School Transportation News is an ACT EXPO media sponsor and is presenting the May 1 session, “Removing Barriers to School Bus Replacement.” Ryan Gray, STN’s editor in chief, will moderate the roundtable.
Brianna Lawrence, senior associate for event organizer Gladstein, Neandross & Associates, will provide tips on accessing funding for school bus replacements. She said on Tuesday that her focus will be on the grant application process, especially what happens after the grant is filed. She will also provide a look at what the Volkswagen Settlement’s Mitigation Trust Fund looks like now, as states begin publicizing their plans and opportunities for districts and contractors to become involved.
Russ Federico, executive director of operational support for the Marana Unified School District near Tucson, Arizona, will provide attendees with a look at the process of building a fleet of CNG school buses. He said the district has “learned lots of lessons” through its journey of acquiring two pilot buses, developing the infrastructure, working out a fueling arrangement at a local waste management yard, and finally ending up with its current total of 15 CNG buses.
Kelly Rhodunda is transportation manager for Upper Moreland School District near Philadelphia, which purchased 35 propane buses in 2016. She comes armed with advice on how to persuade district administration to get on board with plans for alternative fuel school bus purchases. That includes working with the school board, ensuring correct documentation, communicating economic and financial benefits, developing funding plans, infrastructure development and building upgrades.
Tim Shannon, director of transportation for Twin Rivers Unified School District in California, has experience with securing and stacking funding from multiple sources. His fleet of 86 buses is comprised of 40 percent CNG, and includes 16 electric buses that were all acquired through the use of grant funds. He will talk about funding opportunities and how to stack grants for the maximum cost savings. He also announced Tuesday that school districts across the state can now “piggyback” on a recent RFP his district developed to procure alternative fuel vehicles and equipment.
Jenna Van Harpen is alternative fuels regional manager for school bus manufacturer Blue Bird Corp., which works with all three districts that are represented at the roundtable. She stressed the importance of communicating with districts how alternatively fueled buses are better for the environment and will save them money as well.
“We have a solution, whether that’s for electric, CNG or propane,” she said.
Jessica Johnson, manager of compliance for the Mobile Source Control Division of the California Air Resources Board, will wrap the conversation up by sharing the role of state agencies in the conversation and how they can help in overcoming barriers to alternative fuel school bus adoption.
All panelists will weigh in on topics such as: creative financing ideas, infrastructure considerations, future-proofing purchases in light of rapidly evolving technology, integrating staff and administration, justifying costs, community relations and overcoming challenges in procurement. Audience questions will also be taken.
Kylie Taylor, agenda specialist and programs associate at Gladstein, Neandross & Associates and one of the organizers of the ACT EXPO, said the session will serve as a call to action, and “give everyone tools to go out and get started with school bus replacement.”