The Maryland Transit Administration will put up to 500 fuel-saving hybrid-electric buses on the street by 2014 in an effort to reduce harmful emissions and noise, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced yesterday.
"We are not purchasing any more diesel buses," O'Malley said at an open-air news conference at Druid Hill Park.
The MTA's plans would convert 75 percent of its fleet to the hybrids - which it says use 20 percent less fuel and cut particulate emissions by up to 90 percent - within six years, O'Malley said.
The announcement signals a commitment to leave what the governor called "diesel dinosaurs" in the past and rely on technology in which engines alternate between electric battery power and diesel fuel.
"Very soon the days of being spewed with back soot will be over," O'Malley said.
The MTA began the conversion to hybrid buses under the administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., which approved the acquisition of 10 of them in 2005.
The move toward hybrid technology accelerated with the O'Malley administration's agreement to purchase 30 extra-large New Flyer hybrid buses that will reach the streets early next year.
O'Malley said a contract for 100 more hybrid buses will go to the state Board of Public Works this fall. He said the MTA would continue to add hybrids at a rate of 80 to 100 a year thereafter.
The state's experience with the first 10 hybrids has been highly positive. The MTA said the new buses can go 6,000 miles between maintenance stops, while diesel buses need to be in the shop every 3,300 miles.
MTA Administrator Paul Wiedefeld said the hybrids cost about $580,000, compared with $385,000 for diesel buses. But with savings on fuel and operating costs, the hybrids make up the difference within two years.
While the MTA had two hybrid buses on display at the news conference, other energy-saving vehicles stole the show: three electric-powered, three-wheeled stand-up scooters that are getting a tryout by the MTA police.
When O'Malley and Brown saw the vehicles, they jumped aboard and whooshed along the track beside Druid Park Lake, pushing the vehicles to - or perhaps past - their 25-mph maximum speed. After disappearing around a curve, the pair reappeared riding side by side, lights flashing.
They wore no helmets. They did wear big grins.