As part of University President Mary Sue Coleman’s initiative to develop a more sustainable future, the University recently purchased four hybrid buses and 30 hybrid sedans for student transportation.
Keith Johnson, associate director of transportation operations at the University, said the hybrid vehicles are part of the University’s ongoing push for more environmentally friendly practices.
“It has been a plan to do more sustainability operations-wise and this (purchase) fits right into it,” Johnson said.
The University plans to purchase an additional three hybrid buses with a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Energy through the Michigan Green Fleets program — a $40 million project that works toward providing alternative fuel sources and technology for transportation in the state. The grant covers the $168,000 difference between the cost of a conventional bus and a hybrid bus, Johnson said.
The hybrid buses feature a rooftop-mounted battery, which is charged by energy converted from when the bus brakes. The battery supplements a diesel engine, making the hybrid buses 30 percent more efficient than conventional buses, according to a Jan. 5 University press release.
Though only one bus is currently operational, more will become active throughout the year, Johnson said, adding there are plans to replace all University buses in the future. The new buses complement the 545 University owned vehicles currently running on an environmentally friendly fuel source, according to the press release.
Johnson added though that the University’s plans to expand the program may not be feasible, noting that in 2008 the University attempted to purchased hybrid buses, but it was unable to secure funding.
LSA sophomore Zachary Gizicki, a frequent bus rider, said he is pleased the University is making a step toward increased sustainability. However, he doesn’t believe funding for the buses should come from the federal government.
“I think the University should be putting up its own money,” Gizicki said. “Every student pays $20,000 in-state (tuition) and $40,000 out-of-state (tuition). Where does that money go?”
Gizicki also said he believes the University should explore other mass transportation options, like a monorail.
Engineering graduate student Parkin Furia said he was skeptical of how environmentally friendly the buses really are.
“I don’t know how much difference they will make,” he said.
School of Information graduate student Melissa Hernandez said she supports the University’s sustainability efforts and the new busing system.
“I think that they can (make a difference) and are willing to do it,” Hernandez said.