Ben Franklin Transit applies for hybrid bus loans - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Ben Franklin Transit applies for hybrid bus loans

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KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Just Thursday, the  Ben Franklin Transit Services Director, Kathy McMullen  listened to upset customers discuss the  proposed 20 percent rate increase on their services.  She says costs are going up, especially fuel costs, and the only way to counter that is to be proactive.

That's why McMullen, along with two other staff members, traveled to Washington DC earlier this week and sat in on the Federal Transportation meetings.  The goal of the trip is apply for two federal grants, Systems And Goal Repair and Bus and Bus Sustainability.  Each grant has $3 million dollars up for grabs, and BFT wants to use the money to buy new hybrid buses.  "If we could just get one of those grants, even buy  two new buses, that  would make a huge difference," says McMullen.

Our current fleet gets about 6 miles/gallon and runs on Diesel.  McMullen says prices rose 6.5% from the year before and she expects the trend to continue.  "We currently have 70 buses, just to kind of put it in perspective. We have tem 1995's that we'd like to replace for sure.  We have several 98's that are also due for replacement," says McMullen.

McMullen says just getting one of the grants,  $3 million could purchase six buses. She says they're looking at two models, a hybrid which runs on batteries and costs $425,000 a bus and  model which runs on alternative biofuels, like ethanol, costing $375,000 a bus.

McMullen says if they get the grant, BFT will need to come up with a 20 percent match which they've already budgeted for, expecting such a rise in gas prices.  McMullen says they'll find out if they get the grants in July or August.