Friday, July 25, 2008

Compressed Natural Gas Buses for Oakland

Oakland International Airport will buy 26 buses that run on compressed natural gas, or CNG, as shuttles connecting terminals with BART and rental car lots.

CNG vehicles are considered cleaner than diesel or gasoline fueled vehicles. The buses connecting BART to the airport have each done about 600,000 miles of work in their 10 years of driving. Rental car buses are 27 years old. All the buses must be replaced by the end of 2009 by state clean air laws.

Six of the new buses will be used to ferry people to and from the Coliseum BART station, the closest BART stop to the airport. (Ridership has been growing on the five-year-old BART connection to San Francisco International Airport, where trains roll right into the terminal.)

The other 20 buses will carry people back and forth to the rental car lots beyond the airport, most of them along Doolittle Drive to the northeast.

The airport thinks it may save up to $400,000 a year by switching from diesel buses to CNG. It didn't say, however, what the upfront cost of the new, cleaner vehicles will be, but the airport has already passed some of that cost onto its customers. People who ride the BART to Oakland Airport shuttles have been paying a dollar more per trip since March 2007 in order to pay for the new buses. Also, $10 has been added to every rental car contract.

A one-way trip from downtown Oakland to the Oakland Airport costs $1.50 BART fare plus $3 for the shuttle, for a total cost of $4.50. From downtown Oakland to SFO costs $5.65, but the trip is all on BART, with no schlepping of suitcases down stairs or escalators and no wait on busy San Leandro Street in a gritty industrial neighborhood for the airport shuttle to arrive.

From downtown San Francisco BART costs $5.35 to SFO and the trip to Oakland Airport costs $6.55, including the shuttle fare.

New CNG buses are set to start running in 2009, although the airport didn't give a more precise date during the year.

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