The Rapid’s Hybrid Buses are a Bust

The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance has again organized to oppose the ITP’s newest tax hike this May 3rd in the cities of Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Grandville, Walker, Wyoming, and Kentwood. KCTA helped successfully defeat the last tax hike in 2009 featuring the Silverline. Not only will the ITP tax hike resurrect the Silverline but it also includes funding for the purchase of more hybrid buses.

In April of 2007, The Rapid purchased two hybrid-electric buses with great fanfare. They claimed that these buses, at a cost of $510,000 each (compared to about $290,000 for a regular bus) would reduce pollution and double the miles per gallon of a regular bus. According to an article in the Grand Rapids Press on April 24, 2007:

“Rapid officials expect the new buses will get 8 to 10 miles per gallon on routes with frequent stops.”

The Rapid also claimed that they were working with Grand Valley State University to measure the positive effects of these buses and to determine how much more efficient they were than regular buses.

Then there was silence.

Pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request, KCTA found out why. According to The Rapid, their transit buses average 4.45 miles per gallon. The hybrid-electric buses average 5.13 miles per gallon. This means that for an additional price tag of $220,000 per bus, the improvement in efficiency is only 0.68 miles per gallon.

KCTA also sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Grand Valley State University, asking for a copy of the study of these new buses’ efficiency. Their response? There is no study at all.

It’s been more than three years since The Rapid made those claims. KCTA demands accountability in the bus system and an answer as to why they are pursuing more expensive buses in a time of tight budgets.

The Rapid plans to buy eight more of these expensive and wasteful buses for the proposed $40 million Rapid Silver Line route. That plan, part of a 31% property tax increase on the ballot May 3rd, will simply duplicate a bus route that already exists, it will be slower than the current buses, and it will clog up Division Avenue by closing lanes during rush hour so that regular auto traffic will only have one lane each way. The Rapid is planning to spend millions of dollars more for these hybrid buses which provide negligible environmental benefit.

Spokesman Eric Larson summed up the group’s opposition by saying, “At a time of budget cuts, high unemployment, and record deficits, this is not an efficient or responsible use of tax dollars. We must be better stewards of our public monies at times like these.”

For much more documentation on The Rapid’s operations, including a copy of The Rapid’s Freedom of Information Act response regarding their hybrid buses, please visit the ITP Watch web site.