In his quest to acquire the first alternative-fuel school buses for his district, George Taylor didn't give up after his first grant application was denied. Or his second. Or his third.
Taylor, the director of transportation at Kansas City (Kan.) Public Schools, recalls that it wasn't until his fourth or fifth grant submission that he finally landed funds to buy compressed natural gas (CNG) school buses. The payoff was worth the wait: The district was awarded $4 million, which it was required to match, allowing for the purchase of 47 CNG buses and CNG fueling infrastructure.
Kansas City Public Schools now operates four hybrid school buses in addition to its CNG buses. Taylor says that the alternative-fuel buses, all manufactured by Thomas Built Buses, have produced fuel cost savings for the district and have had a significant impact in improving air quality for the community.
Taylor's drive to incorporate alternative fuels into his fleet stemmed from concerns about increasing oil prices and about the health of Kansas City's students.
"It was driven by the cost of [traditional] fuel and the desire to be a good steward of our environment," he says, noting that he especially wanted to contribute to cleaner air for the district's students who have asthma and other medical conditions.
It was when Taylor began working with the Kansas City Regional Clean Cities Coalition that the grant funding came through. The $4 million was a stimulus grant from the Department of Energy.
Kansas City Public Schools purchased the buses through Thomas Built dealer Midwest Bus Sales, which delivered one pilot model of the CNG-powered Saf-T-Liner HDX bus in September 2010.
The district started with one unit so it could have time to try it out and see "if we had anything to tweak for the order," Taylor says.
He adds that Thomas Built and Midwest Bus Sales provided key support during the process.
"It was new territory for us," Taylor says. "They were always very receptive to what my suggestions were."
By late November 2010, the district had five of the CNG buses for training, and the rest of the units were delivered soon after.
About a year and a half later, Kansas City Public Schools acquired its first hybrid-electric buses. As with the CNG buses, the purchase of the Saf-T-Liner C2 hybrids was made possible by grant funding.