Ride On unveils redesigned bus fleet

The vibrant hues of the new blue, green and yellow Ride On buses have hit the streets of Potomac.  These new eco-friendly buses are a result of new regulations set on public transportation emissions.

The regulations are in accordance with the Environmental Sustainability Policy that the Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPWT) has adopted in order to preserve and better the environment.

 “There were members of the [Ride On] staff that thought [going green] was an opportunity to deliver a message that our buses are now complying with new regulations, if not reaching further,” said Howard Benn, chief of Customer and Operations Support Section for Ride On.  “This was a way for us to state to our citizens and tax payers [that] we are doing the best to comply with [what] is required and doing the best to make our state clean.”

The new Ride On buses come in three different models: one is hybrid and the other two are diesel models.

According to Benn, the hybrid buses are part of the county’s efforts to minimize the use of diesel fuel in buses.  The hybrids have smaller diesel engines which subsequently minimize the diesel operation of the buses and release significantly fewer pollutants to the atmosphere.  However, the buses can be costly, adding up to about $500,000 each, so the county minimizes its purchases of these buses in order to fit the county’s budget.

The other two models of buses are known as clean diesel buses and though they are similarly decorated, one version is a 40 foot standard transit bus that operates with both Ride On and Metrobus, and the other version is a 29 foot bus.

“There is a substantial difference in the cleanliness of the new diesel engine,” Benn said.
However, Environmental Club president senior Steven Varkiani does not believe what Ride On is doing is completely environmentally proficient.

“It’s a great step up from some of the older models which ran on gasoline or diesel, though there hasn’t been much change,” Varkiani said.  “They have had hybrids and clean diesel models previously, and even now they haven’t fully switched to hybrids.”

According to Benn, once Ride On began accepting advertising on its buses in 2007, the previous paint scheme was no longer compatible with exterior advertising, so they began work on creating a new, innovative design.

A graphic arts consulting firm was then hired to make recommendations within the parameters of environmental awareness and Ride On’s desire to convey a positive green message.  All of this was done with minimal cost to Montgomery County.

The overall reaction to the final product, according to Benn, has been “very, very positive.”

While Varkiani does not believe the buses are perfect, he believes Ride On is taking a step in the right direction and is an example for other transportation systems.

“Right now, this change is great for the environment, though it isn’t too beneficial yet,” Varkiani said.  “Hopefully this gateway will allow for broader and more dynamic changes in the future.”