Austin school officials have agreed to use a cleaner burning diesel fuel in their buses after receiving thousands of letters from Austin residents pushing for the switch.
Superintendent Pat Forgione said Tuesday that the nearly 400 diesel-burning buses in the district’s fleet would switch to the cleaner burning fuel in an effort to reduce smog in the Austin area.
He said the switch was “a great step toward achieving better air quality in Texas.
“We’ll all breathe a little easier,” Forgione said.
Members of the Texas Campaign for the Environment organized the letter-writing campaign in May and enlisted other groups — from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to Education Austin — to pressure the district.
“This is a great day for children who ride buses,” said Robin Schneider, director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment, pointing to health problems aggravated by air pollution. “Every little bit helps to bring down the smog levels.”
Schneider said the move was an important step in improving Austin’s air quality. The city is in danger of being declared a non-attainment area for failing to meet federal air quality standards. Among other things, that puts federal transportation dollars at risk.
Travis County and the City of Austin have switched all diesel-burning vehicles to the cleaner burning fuel. The Lower Colorado River Authority also has taken measures to reduce its vehicles’ emissions.
Officials at Capital Metro, who switched their 295 buses and trolleys to the cleaner burning fuel in the summer of 2000, have said the agency is getting 2.5 more miles per gallon, which has reduced fuel costs by 2.5 percent.
The school district spends about $1.2 million on fuel for all of its buses and other vehicles. The district’s fleet of 450 buses transports 17,000 students a day. About three-quarters of the fleet uses 600,000 gallons of diesel fuel. Austin officials hope the extra cost of the new fuel — about 3 cents per gallon — eventually will be negated by better fuel mileage and reduced maintenance costs.
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