A lot more goes into running local government than many people realize. Take, for example, Prince George’s County in Maryland. The county employs about 7,000 workers and has an annual budget of $2.7 billion, all to serve a population of nearly 900,000 in 20 towns and cities.

Few ever consider how many vehicles are needed for such an entity – 4,300, to be exact, which are used by 18 county agencies, 12 municipalities, 40 volunteer fire departments and two nonprofit organizations. Police cars, ambulances, administrative sedans, garbage trucks, landfill equipment, highway maintenance vehicles, senior citizen buses — the list goes on. And it takes a lot of fuel to run them.

For Ozinga Brothers Inc., the decision to move from diesel fuel to compressed natural gas (CNG) for its fleet of concrete mixer trucks and other vehicles was a fairly easy one. “In 2011, we began to do research and look at what our options were regarding purchasing new equipment, and saw that diesel trucks were becoming more highly regulated,” says Tim Ozinga, a co-owner and director of marketing communications for the Mokena, Ill.-headquartered ready-mix concrete company. “At the time, the technology for CNG was becoming more advanced, and we saw it working well for companies in the refuse industry, so we considered it a good option.”

The company’s previous purchase of diesel trucks came in 2006, just before federal and state legislation regarding emissions standards began to phase in. The requirement to outfit diesel trucks with expensive particulate filters in particular helped motivate the company’s switch once the time to purchase new equipment once again came around. 

Ron Latko has overseen a number of major fleet-related projects during his 26 years working in transportation-related roles, but says his most successful endeavor is the one he’s currently overseeing. 

“I’ve been around for a long time and managed a lot of projects, but no matter how much you think things through, something that you didn’t consider will come along and present a challenge,” says Latko, director of transportation for Mesa (Ariz.) Public Schools. “This project has gone so smoothly it’s been unreal.” 

The school district began an effort in 2011 to convert its bus fleet from diesel fuel to propane. The district now operates 90 propane-fueled buses, and plans to fully convert its fleet of 544 buses to the alternative fuel before 2025. Mesa Public Schools that year also purchased two permanent 18,000-gallon tanks and a portable 1,000-gallon tank to fuel its fleet. A third 18,000-gallon tank will be installed later this year. “We’re ahead of schedule, and everything is working perfectly,” Latko adds.

For fleet operators across the country, the tightening of diesel emission standards became a significant issue in 2009, when new federal guidelines were approved to curb greenhouse gases. For California in general and Los Angeles in particular, air quality has been on the radar for much longer, as the city has been designated a severe non-attainment area by the Environment Protection Agency for its air pollution for decades.

“There is enormous political pressure for the city to clean up its air quality,” says John Drayton, manager of vehicle technology for LA Metro, the city’s bus and rail transit agency. “It’s not just our board under this pressure – there’s long been a push to go toward the cleanest technology available. It’s just part of the LA political DNA.”

Knoxville Area Transit (KAT) has spent the past five years modernizing and researching more efficient ways to provide public transportation to the city’s commuters. 

Mass transit in Knoxville dates back to 1876 when the first streetcars of the Knoxville Street Railway Co. were pulled by horses and mules along tracks on Gay Street. In 1890, the streetcars were converted from animal to electric power and the first electric streetcar traveled from Gay Street to Lake Ottosee. Knoxville had progressed by 1910 to operate 42 miles of track and carry 11 million passengers per year. The first buses began operation in 1929 and by 1947, electric streetcars made their last run. “The last rail car was completely restored and sits in the East Tennessee Historical Society museum in Knoxville on Gay Street,” Chief Maintenance Officer Si McMurray says. 

Today, KAT operates two fleets: demand-response, which operates 24 vans to transport people in need who qualify through an application process, and fixed route, which operates 72 buses along 24 pre-planned routes. According to a recent study conducted by the transit system, 10,600 riders board a KAT bus during an average weekday. Of that number, 40 percent are job-related riders, 21 percent are shoppers, 13 percent are students and nine percent ride to get to medical treatment centers.

California has a reputation for being on the leading-edge of sustainability and green initiatives, so to be recognized as one of the greenest vehicle fleets in the state puts Alameda County in the upper echelon not only in California but all of North America. For the fifth time, Alameda County’s vehicle fleet was recognized as one of the 40-greenest fleets in North America by Green Fleet Magazine. California had 12 counties represented on the top-40 list, none ranked higher than Alameda County. 

Alameda County’s Board of Supervisors provides strong leadership in sustainability efforts for the county, which includes several Bay Area cities, including the city of Oakland. The County has been incorporating green vehicles into its fleet since the 1990s, according to Transportation Services Manager Douglas Bond. Along the way, the county has added vehicles to its fleet including electric cars, hybrid vehicles and even cars that run on recycled vegetable oil. Today, the county’s fleet includes 175 hybrids and 21 electric vehicles, which the county says save it more than $200,000 per year in fuel costs. Bond says the county’s consistent presence on the top-40 list is proof that its approach is strong. “It’s definitely a great honor to be recognized,” he says. 

Rail embargoes are a rare occurrence, but a chill ran through the oil and gas industry in 2009 at the onset of the horizontal drilling phenomenon when the Kansas City Southern Railroad set two embargoes in South Texas within a few short months due to the increased demand for frac sand. CRU Logistics’ Bryant Tenorio, general manager of U.S. terminals, says the industry experienced an unexpected growth spurt due to the implementation of horizontal drilling.

The airport is currently home to one carrier, Spirit Airlines, which serves about 70 percent of the airport’s passengers. The other 30 percent of passengers are served by charter flights, as the airport is the third-busiest charter airport in the country. In 2011, the airport reached its peak amount of passengers, serving about 1.5 million inbound and outbound travellers.

Achieving Goals

Unsurprisingly, Atlantic City International Airport has seen a slight decline in volume in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. But according to Executive Director Sam Donelson, the airport’s overall mission has not been adversely impacted.

“The airport sits on 5,000 acres, and you can ultimately fit all of Philadelphia International Airport, Newark International Airport and over half of LaGuardia inside the facility,” Donelson says. “In 1995, we kicked off the master plan for the airport, and we were expecting to grow. We’ve upgraded the electrical facilities, rehabbed the runway, relocated taxiways and wrapped up with the overall expansion of the terminal. The project began in January 2011, and we finished the project in November 2012.”

The expansion of the terminal includes an addition of 75,000 square feet and three new boarding gates. This brings the airport’s total to 10 gates. Two of the three new gates are convertible so they can be used for domestic or international traffic.

“We were faced with a few challenges when it came to customs and border control,” Donelson says. “We had to meet all federal inspection station requirements accordingly.”

Now that the ribbon has been cut on the terminal expansion, Donelson says the changes are helping the airport to set a higher standard. That is because the new terminal puts more of a focus on customers’ needs. This includes simple items that one might take for granted, such as charging stations for electronic devices or high-velocity hand dryers that are next to the sink and help keep bathroom floors from getting wet. The project also added a new baggage claim area.

“With only two belts before, there was always at least one that was at full capacity and couldn't handle the Airbus 320 or Airbus 321,” Donelson says. “Therefore, we replaced them with three high-capacity belts and a baggage information display system that shows flight information and transfers automatically through the software database. We’ve seen improvement after these upgrades.”

Room for Improvement

Although the airport is enjoying the results of its recent initiatives, it continues to prepare for what it hopes will come in the years ahead. Donelson says he wants to bring more airlines and flights to Atlantic City International Airport, and he is working with the local casinos and chamber of commerce to help make it happen. The plan is to market the airport to people in places like Boston, Chicago, Atlanta and Detroit in an effort to attract more visitors. Donelson says the airport is also working with existing and potential new carriers to leverage its new federal inspection station in hopes of landing direct international flights to the Caribbean and Latin America. Many flights originating out of Atlantic City are destined for those locations but connect through Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“We plan to continue to expand our services and market ourselves where we would be competitive geographically,” Donelson says. “Our marketing plans include advertising that is directly related to passengers’ demands for more airlines, more times and more flights.”

Although one of Atlantic City International Airport’s most important goals is to bring in more airlines, it is not the airport’s only goal. In addition, the airport wants to become more technologically savvy, bringing in services such as remote baggage check-in and providing the ability to print boarding passes from local hotels. This will allow visitors to spend less time at the airport and more time enjoying their stays.

Technology usage also includes the possibility of using the airport’s fiber-optic network to keep travelers heading to the airport aware of any issues with flights. “There is a fiber-optic backbone that runs through the complex, and it has communication access to the control tower,” Donelson says. “This fiber-optic cable will be connected to the Atlantic City Expressway, Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike to display any problems at the airport via the displays that are located on the highways.”

After many years of working to improve and bolster its image and capabilities, Atlantic City International Airport believes it is on its way to bigger and better things. Donelson believes the airport can put is new facilities and technology to good use, making the airport the best that it can be.

“We will continuing to work with our partners in South Jersey to make sure that people know that this airport is open and welcoming,” he says.

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