PARTA has earned state recognition by being designated a three star Ohio Green Fleet. Clean Fuels Ohio issued the award through its statewide program, which recognizes fleets for their efficiency and environmental performance.
Frank Hairston, director of marketing, customer service and civil rights at PARTA, said he came to work one day and noticed a cloud of black smoke over the bus garage. He approached Brian Trautman, director of operations, maintenance and facilities at PARTA, and said, "We've got to do something," he said.
Trautman assured him he was already working on the issue, and already had been in touch with Renewable Lubricants, a Suffield-based company that makes bio-diesel fuel, engine oil and other fluids from plant-based sources, such as corn.
"Most of our fleet runs on it," said Trautman, who estimated that PARTA will use about 1,400 gallons of bio-based oil this year in its 67-vehicle fleet.
It's something he thinks every transportation authority should do, noting that New York operates more than 850 buses, serving 368,000 riders a day -- more than 10 times the 67 buses in PARTA's fleet.
"If all the different transportation authorities switched to bio-based oil, it would have a significant impact on our dependence on foreign oil," he said.
Although bio-based oils are a little more expensive than traditional diesel fuel, PARTA makes up for the difference through greater fuel efficiency using Bio-Power, a fuel conditioner that addresses carbon deposit problems and low sulfur issues. Trautman said PARTA also has learned that it can make oil changes less frequent by testing the oil to see how it is holding up.
The oils pick up contaminants when used in the buses, so they can't be immediately returned to the ground, but they are recycled, Trautman pointed out.
The green efforts even extend to the water used to wash the buses. Two large rain barrels collect 5,000 gallons of water, which is used to wash the buses in the fleet.
"This year, we've had no problem keeping them full," Trautman said, adding that snow was melted over the winter months.
Hairston said the efforts resonate with a desire to leave a better world for the next generation.
"We talk all the time about our kids and grandkids and the impact this will have on them," Hairston said. "Especially because it's one of our own people in Portage County providing the fuel. We're doing our part."
Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139
Facebook: Diane Smith, Record-Courier