Diesel-hybrid cruises Breckenridge transit routes | VailDaily.com

Diesel-hybrid cruises Breckenridge transit routes

Robert Allen
Summit County Correspondent
Vail CO, Colorado
Eric Drummond/Summit Daily NewsOne of the Breckenridge Free Ride's new 35-foot hybrid buses rolls onto Park Avenue in Breckenridge recently, getting about 6.5 miles per gallon compared with 4-5 miles per gallon for the full-diesel buses.

BRECKENRIDGE, Colorado ” A bright grin under a white bucket hat and Wayfarer-style shades greeted riders boarding Breckenridge Free Ride’s new diesel-hybrid bus Friday.

A couple of the riders were surprised to learn the spacious, 35-foot Gillig bus was in fact of the hybrid-electric variety.

Driver Andy Schoeneman said the bus handles better than he anticipated.

“It’s got some zip off the line,” he said.

The $500,000 bus is one of two the town obtained with help from a $750,000 grant reimbursement from the Federal Transit Administration and Colorado Department of Transportation.

The town has had the buses since February, but some paperwork logistics set back their appearance on town routes.

They first debuted on the Yellow Route in the past few weeks, but the large bus is only being run Friday through Sunday because demand is lower during the week.

The second bus will soon be running on either the Yellow or Brown routes ” the two busiest, said Maribeth Lewis, town assistant manager for parking and transit.

“It’s a really nice addition to our fleet,” she said.

“What I’m seeing even at the average (fuel efficiency) rate is a 20 to 30 percent increase over standard diesel.”

Mileage is expected to further improve as the engines are broken in and drivers become accustomed to them, she said.

Schoeneman is also a history and philosophy instructor at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge.

He teaches the Philosophy of the Environment course.

He said town leaders’ emphasis on eco-friendliness is positive.

“I’m impressed with the moves they’ve made.

They seem to be pretty savvy,” he said.

The bus drivers recently began shutting off their engines during the five or more minutes of down time between loops, he said.

Lewis said transit colleagues elsewhere are waiting to see how the hybrid buses work out for the town.

“I think this will be an ongoing trend, nationally ” people owning hybrids,” she said.

Three mid-size Chevrolet El Dorado buses were also introduced to the fleet this year.

Though not hybrids, they are lighter and more efficient than the normal-size buses during times of low ridership.

Lewis said she regularly rides town buses; she finds that people appreciate of the environmentally and fuel-conscious effort.

The level of driver courtesy, at least on the Yellow Route on Friday, was noticeable: Schoeneman thanked every rider exiting the bus.

“It’s what keeps them coming back,” he said.

Lewis said the transit drivers are considered ambassadors for the town.

“They see more members of the public than anyone else,” she said.

Some drivers have been with the town as long as 10 years; half have been there more than five.

Schoeneman has been a driver with the town for a few months shy of three years.

The town is seeking public feedback as it considers adjusting its transit routes.

An open house will occur at 5 p.m. today at the Breckenridge Police Department training room.

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or rallen@summitdaily.com.

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