Hybrid buses may roll by mid 2008

The hybrids, though they cost more, would get 25 percent better mileage and are quieter than typical buses.

Published March 4, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - "Hybrid" buses, powered by a combination of electricity and diesel fuel, could be rolling on Pinellas roads by the summer of next year if the county bus agency approves.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board gave initial okay Wednesday to buy four of the buses, which are more expensive than regular buses but are said to be more environmentally friendly.

A public hearing is set for March 28 at PSTA headquarters, 3201 Scherer Drive. A PSTA design committee will look in closer detail at the hybrids in the meantime.

"It looks like it's moving along," said Karl Nurse, a PSTA board member who has been trying to promote hybrids for several years.

The benefits of hybrids: They run cleaner, get better mileage and are quieter than regular buses, Nurse said.

"When you step on the gas, that bus roar you hear when they normally start up, it doesn't exist," Nurse said.

So the vehicles are easier on the senses for passengers and for residents and businesses near bus stops.

The hybrids cost an estimated $480,000 each, which is about $105,000 more than a regular bus.

But the hybrids save on diesel fuel costs, Nurse said, because they get about 25 percent more in mileage than a standard bus.

"That wouldn't be a big deal in a regular car, but if you are driving 50,000 miles a year, that's suddenly real money," Nurse said.

The hybrids are 35 feet long, about the size of most other buses in the 197-vehicle PSTA fleet.

They are used in other larger cities around the nation, including New York, Chicago and Seattle.