Almanac

Viewpoint - January 30, 2013

Letter: Is the cost of hybrid buses justifiable?

The San Mateo County Transit District is adding 25 new hybrid buses to its fleet by the end of the year. Manufactured by Gillig, a Hayward company, they are expected to save around $3 million in fuel costs over the next 12 years, according to district spokeswoman Christine Dunn.

What is the cost of the hybrid buses? An Intercity Transit Hybrid Bus Fact Sheet (tinyurl.com/ah3dkpj) shows a cost of $579,000. That's roughly $250,000 more than a standard bus. The "Fact Sheet" states, "The fuel cost savings per bus is approximately $138,000 over the life of the vehicle."

And forget about the phony cost reduction from the $4.9 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant. Folks, that's taxpayer's dollars! And, Gillig already received a government subsidy from the Federal Transit Administration's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.

There are those who will argue that the hybrids provide emission reductions ranging from up to 50 percent for CO2 and NOx to 90 percent for carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and particulate matter, and that clean air is priceless.

If the cost to produce that which you value reduces the opportunity to procure something of greater value, that's an opportunity cost. Decisions must be made but not by you or me. We only get to decide how to spend what's left over after taxes.

SamTrans owes the public an explanation with actual cost figures.

Jack Hickey

Ferndale Way, Emerald Hills

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