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City decision on buying hybrid buses likely by early next year, officials say


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POSTED: Sunday, October 04, 2009

Question: What ever happened to the city's plans to use more hybrid buses on city streets?

Answer: Officials still are studying the possibility of adding lighter, more efficient hybrid vehicles to TheBus fleet, said Wayne Yoshioka, city transportation director.

In April, the city used a prototype bus made from composite carbon-fiber material on some bus routes to test its efficiency and durability on Honolulu streets.

Known as the Compo bus, the vehicle made of material similar to the body of a Corvette. The material is lighter than steel and does not rust, adding two to three years to the life of the bus. The composite also makes the Compo bus about 1,000 pounds lighter than standard 40-foot buses.

The bus is five feet longer than standard 40-foot buses used on Oahu and can accommodate up to 47 seats, about 10 more than the regular models.

For a month, city officials tested it on routes where standard 40-foot buses were overcrowded at peak hours, but longer 60-foot extended buses were emptier during off-peak times.

“;It turned out the bus handled pretty well,”; said Yoshioka. “;It peaked our interest enough to research it further.”;

Yoshioka said Los Angeles is prepared to buy 500 of the Compo buses, and Honolulu transportation officials plan to keep in close contact with their counterparts there.

“;We're actively communicating with those guys and trying to understand what their experience is like,”; he said.

Yoshioka said he hopes to continue gathering information to be able to come back next year and make a decision on whether the city should pursue its own contract for some of the Compo buses.

“;By early January of next year, we'll probably be able to be in a position to say this is a bus that is something that we want to pursue further,”; Yoshioka said.

Officials with TheBus save said that if proven effective, the Compo buses could replace up to 120 of the fleet's 40-foot models.

The Compo bus, with a diesel engine and outfitted for Oahu use, costs about $500,000, about $100,000 more than a standard 40-foot bus. It also can be outfitted with a hybrid or compressed natural gas fuel system at a higher cost.

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This Star-Bulletin staff update was written by B.J. Reyes. You can write us at What Ever Happened to… Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana, Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).