Rowland Unified gets millions in grants for green school buses
Rowland Unified School District is taking steps to turn its big yellow school buses green.
The district recently received $2.5 million in grants to buy cleaner buses. The new buses are fueled by compressed natural gas, known as CNG, eliminating the dirty diesel that powered the old buses.
Rowland Unified sees the buses as one more step in its green initiative. Studies show CNG buses emit significantly less pollutants such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.
"When we heard about the California Air Resources Board's school bus program, we applied for six new buses through the (South Coast Air Quality Management District)," explained Keith Moore, the school district's director of transportation. "We'll receive another nine buses before the end of the year."
The Air Resources Board is trying to reduce children's exposure to the cancer-causing pollutants that foul the air.
A landmark government health study released earlier this year provided evidence that diesel engine exhaust that pervades California highways could be causing cancer at a greater rate than previously known.
The long-term study, carried out by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and
The Air Resources Board is helping school districts replace older gross-polluting diesel buses with clean alternative fuel models.
Proposition 1B approved by voters in 2006 provided $200 million for replacing and retrofitting school buses.
So Rowland jumped on the bus and got nearly $2.5 million for 15 CNG buses. It's replacing nearly half its fleet of 42 buses with glistening yellow buses that will not only help the air, but save the district money.
"With the new CNG buses, we expect to cut our fuel costs by a third over the next three to five years," Moore said.
He noted the district will pay the equivalent of 97 cents a gallon for CNG versus $2.42 a gallon for diesel at the pump through state tax incentives.
And the price of the buses was right.
"The Blue Bird buses have a manufacturer's full retail price of $210,000. The district had to contribute $15,000 toward the cost, but later we got a $14,000 rebate, so the
The new machines are not only a marvel of green technology, they're much safer and more comfortable.
"You don't have to slide the windows down to get air on a hot day," Moore said. "The new buses have air conditioning."
There's also gas leak detectors that automatically shut off the four large gas tanks located underneath the bus. A fire suppression system guards the engine bay in back.
"These buses have been proven safe. In the past 11 years, there have been no fatalities or major fires on them," Moore pointed out.
Inside, 70 students will sit on fully-padded flame retardant seats with three-point seatbelts. In case of an emergency, there are four emergency exits as well as two large roof vents.
"These buses have so many safety features such as a GPS system that allows us to track them. We can even monitor how fast they're traveling or if they're stopped," Moore said.
Earlier, Rowland got $600,000 for four buses for special-needs students through the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
These buses even have a student tracking system that allows the district to tell where students get on and off the bus. A large open area in the middle of the bus holds up to six wheelchairs.
Two-way radios allow bus drivers to contact district dispatchers whenever they need to. And a sophisticated video system with four cameras records all the activity inside and outside the bus.
"In case of an accident or incident, we can play back the video footage to see exactly what happened," he said.
Even the bus mechanics seem happier with the CNG buses.
"When we check the oil it's as clean as when we put it in, so we may get four to five times the interval between oil changes," said John Pellegrin, Rowland's vehicle maintenance supervisor.
Pellegrin attended a special four-day course at Cerritos College sponsored by the Southern California Gas Company and the AQMD. The mechanic has given the big yellow buses the greenlight to start rolling on Aug. 20.
626-962-8811, ext. 2801