New bus ribbon-cutting
From left: Dick Moran, AMTRAN board; Chancellor Lori Bechtel-Wherry, Penn State Altoona; Scott Cessna, AMTRAN Chair; Congressman Bill Shuster; Eric Wolf, AMTRAN General Manager; Jerry Lippert, AMTRAN board member; Cindy Updyke, Rep. Rick Geist's office; Mike Robinson, AMTRAN board; Joe Hurd, Executive Director/CEO, Blair County Chamber of Commerce
“I’m proud to join AMTRAN today in putting three new American-made diesel-electric hybrid buses into service,” said Congressman Bill Shuster. “These buses will replace significantly outdated buses, increasing safety for passengers while also reducing fuel usage by 20 to 30 percent,” said Shuster.
The new diesel-electric hybrid buses are built by the Gillig Corporation in Hayward, California and will be replacing three 1993 Orion buses with over 400,000 miles on them.
“These three buses are a great addition to our fleet. We will save money on fuel as well as reducing emissions without sacrificing power,” said Scott Cessna, Chairman of AMTRAN's Board of Directors. “We are very grateful to Congressman Bill Shuster for his ongoing support of AMTRAN.”
The new hybrids show a 20 to 30 percent increase in fuel economy over diesel or CNG buses. The new buses include all of AMTRAN’s Smart Bus technology, which help the bus driver stay on time and reports real-time bus stop information to customers through the internet, by phone, and through QR (Quick Response) codes at every bus stop.
The upgrade from regular diesel buses to hybrids was funded by a special grant through PennDOT.
Eric Wolf, AMTRAN General Manager, recognized funding partners including the Federal Transit Administration, PennDOT’s Bureau of Public Transportation, the City of Altoona, Penn State Altoona, Logan Township, Hollidaysburg Borough, Hollidaysburg Veterans Home, and Allegheny Township.
Penn State Altoona Chancellor Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry was also in attendance at the ribbon-cutting on October 11. “Penn State Altoona is proud to be a long-time partner with AMTRAN,” said Chancellor Lori. “We would not be able to serve our students and our two campuses without the bus service.”
The easiest explanation for hybrid technology on a bus is to think of it as a 35-foot Prius. A small diesel engine charges the batteries, and it is the batteries, not the engine, that power the transmission. The improved fuel economy and reduced emissions come from having a smaller engine running at a constant rpm rather than a big engine revving up to pull away from a stop. The system also recaptures energy during braking through the Allison transmission. This proven technology from Gillig is already in use in Pittsburgh, Scranton, Allentown, and Reading.
Smart Bus Technology
The buses have all of AMTRAN’s Smart Bus technology including GPS which helps the bus driver stay on time and also reports real-time bus stop information to customers through the internet, by phone, and through QR (Quick Response) codes at every bus stop. The buses also have automated ADA stop announcements inside the bus via audio for people with vision disabilities and LED signs for people with hearing disabilities. Finally, automatic passenger counters track ridership right down to individual bus stops.
This technology was developed by Avail Technologies of State College. The Smart Bus Project, made possible by an Intelligent Transportation System grant through Congressman Bill Shuster, earned AMTRAN a 2010 Technology Award from the Blair County Chamber of Commerce. The final phase of the Smart Bus project is a new fare collection system called myFare from Avail Technologies that will be in place early next year.
One of the three new buses is painted Blue & White with a Nittany Lion pawprint to recognize AMTRAN's long time partnership with Penn State Altoona.