A new hybrid bus and a $1.12 million grant to buy three buses that burn bio-diesel are steering the Community Urban Bus Service's course toward a greener future.

The city of Longview is along for the ride, launching its plans to convert its entire diesel vehicle fleet to run on bio-fuels, CUBS Transit Manager Corey Aldridge said last week.

"This will be good for the entire city and for the community because we'll now have greener vehicles on the road," he said.

Funded by federal stimulus money, CUBS' first hybrid coach bus will hit the road Monday, ferrying Route 12 riders to West Longview. According to manufacturer Gillig, the $600,000 hybrid-diesel bus will consume 20 to 40 percent less fuel and release 25 to 35 percent fewer emissions than traditional diesel buses, Aldridge said.

The bus engine switches to the battery at times it normally would idle, which is when the most pollutants are generated, Aldridge said. Due to its electronic steering and accelerator, the ride is smoother. The bus is also quieter than the other coaches, "but it's plenty loud that you definitely will hear it," he said.

Aside from the taller roof to house the battery packs, the bus looks the same as CUBS' other buses, he said.

"You don't go, ‘Oh, wow, it's a hybrid bus,'" Aldridge said.

The new hybid bus was ordered in 2009. CUBS originally had hoped to buy several hybrids, but because hybrids now cost $200,000 more than diesel buses — which now cost $450,000 — the transit service decided to purchase diesels to carry out CUBS' route expansion plans.

After CUBS applied for a $1.12 million clean fuels federal grant in August, transit officials were excited to learn that the Gillig company's diesel buses built after 2001 can run on 20 percent alternative fuel, Aldridge said.

"So we can still have the cleaner, greener buses with out needing to purchase the hybrid. A hybrid is always better - it burns cleaner ... but we can get more buses and still be better for the environment than our older ones are," he said.

Longview city officials said if CUBS won the grant, the city would begin its 18-month shift to alternative fuel, which has been the city's goal for a while, Aldridge said.

CUBS was informed Nov. 17 it was getting the grant, which requires a 17 percent funding match from the Cowlitz Transit Authority. The buses will be delivered in about 18 months. 

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