Transit buses provide ‘affordable public transportation’ for Michigan community

September 29, 2016 By    

Each 39-seat bus is equipped with a 6.8-liter Ford engine, a Roush CleanTech propane fuel system and a 100-gallon fuel tank. Photo courtesy of Blue Bird.

The recent delivery of 16 alternative fuel buses to the Flint, Michigan, Mass Transportation Authority (MTA) signals the largest rollout of Blue Bird Propane Visions for commercial use.

According to Flint MTA, the new alternative fuel buses cut costs, reduce emissions and take advantage of a domestically produced fuel. Compared with the diesel buses they replaced, each bus will cut down on 800 pounds of nitrogen oxide and 35 pounds of particulate matter annually.

“Blue Bird Propane Vision buses allow Flint to provide green, affordable public transportation while saving taxpayer dollars,” says Ed Benning, general manager and CEO for Flint MTA.

Flint MTA purchased the buses with Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding. The FTA New Model Bus Testing Program (known as Altoona testing) rates new buses on safety, structural integrity and durability, reliability, performance, maintainability, noise and fuel economy.

“These federal funds cover 80 percent of the alternative fuel vehicle cost, with a 20 percent local match,” Benning says. “The MTA worked closely with Blue Bird to ’Altoona-test’ the bus – an outcome that will benefit all transit agencies that acquire these buses.”

“This rollout signals an expansion for Blue Bird into the transit bus market,” says Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird. “We’re bringing decades of experience in school buses and expertise in affordable, alternative fuel buses to transit agencies and public transportation riders.”

The commercial version of the Blue Bird Propane Vision, which comes with a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty, is Altoona-test rated for 350,000 miles or 10 years. Each 39-seat bus is equipped with a 6.8-liter Ford engine, a Roush CleanTech fuel system and a 100-gallon fuel tank.

“In the few months since the MTA started using these buses, they are achieving a 325-mile range per tank,” Benning says. “They were purchased as commercial buses and upfitted as public transit buses with transit windows, seating and two wheelchair positions.

“In addition to providing cleaner operations, the propane autogas fueled, medium-duty buses cost only one-third of the price of heavy-duty transit buses, so they are an extremely cost-effective way to augment our transit bus fleet,” Benning adds.

Flint MTA locked in a yearlong rate of 75 cents per gallon for propane autogas, which helps the agency budget fuel costs. With the current federal alternative fuel tax credit, its per-gallon cost is 39 cents. The agency averages 20,000 miles per month on the buses, using them for six hours daily during peak service route times.

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About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at or 216-706-3748.

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