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New buses to cut costs, pollution, NFTA says 30 hybrid vehicles expected next year

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is out to cut fuel costs and emissions by adding 30 hybrid buses to its Metro Bus fleet.

Diesel engines on the 40-foot, 38-passenger buses will generate electricity, while a highly efficient electric motor will drive the wheels. The electric motors kick in during acceleration and recharge during braking.

In addition to reducing engine emissions by more than 50 percent, the hybrid vehicles also are expected to use at least 25 percent less diesel fuel than a traditional bus.

The NFTA executive board Monday unanimously approved a $16.1 million contract with Gillig Corp. of Hayward, Calif., for the 30 buses, which are expected to start rolling on the authority's routes in Erie and Niagara counties late next year. The agreement also authorizes the NFTA to order up to 150 more hybrid vehicles over five years.

"This will reduce our fuel costs, but it's also the socially responsible thing to do," Commissioner Henry Sloma said. "We're big fuel users, and we should do what can to cut our consumption through this new technology."

The hybrid buses are expected to get 5.3 miles per gallon of No. 2 diesel fuel, compared with 4.6 miles per gallon for the current buses. When the 30 high-tech buses join the fleet, fuel costs are forecast to drop by more than $100,000 annually.

The "low floor" buses, which reduce entry-step climbing for passengers, also will feature automatic stop announcements, video surveillance cameras, cushioned seats, improved driver seating and an automatic passenger-counting system.

The new buses will replace Metro Buses that have been in service since early 1994.

In other matters, the NFTA board approved two key items related to the authority's waterfront land holdings:

* The sale of the Small Boat Harbor and Gallagher Beach to the state for $5 million. The NFTA will receive $4 million from the sale of the 143 acres of outer harbor land, expected to be completed by Nov. 15. The remaining $1 million will be used for environmental cleanup measures at the beach.

* A memorandum of intent with Buffalo Lakefront Group, which is proposing a $750 million redevelopment of 120 acres of outer harbor land. The agreement, a key step toward a master plan for the waterfront land, is expected to include residential, entertainment and recreational developments on the nearly vacant lakefront site.

Work on a marina at the Seaway Piers could get under way as early as next summer.

In other matters, the NFTA confirmed Monday that troubled airline Independence Air will trim its Buffalo service to three from four daily flights Oct. 31. The low-cost airline debuted in Buffalo in July 2004.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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