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Hybrid School Bus May Join New Canaan Fleet

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Students may get to hitch a ride to school next year aboard an environmentally friendly bus.

New Canaan Public Schools is planning to purchase a hybrid diesel/electric school bus that operates much like the hybrid cars now rolling on our roads. The Board of Selectmen voted Thursday during a special meeting to approve participation in the 2011 Connecticut Clean Fuel Program . That will give the town a $63,000 grant, which will cover a chunk of the $145,000 bill to build a hybrid bus.

Under the proposed agreement, the town would buy the bus and lease it to Dattco, the bus contractor, for two years. The district would then sell the bus to Dattco for a nominal fee. District transportation coordinator Roy Walder said Dattco asked New Canaan whether it was interested in getting involved in the program.

“There’s been background support for this project for years,” Walder said, although there previously were no hybrid buses to buy.

Walder said the 71-passenger hybrid bus will operate largely on electric power and recharge when a driver hits the brake pedal. The bus will use diesel fuel for longer trips. Walder said the bus should save the district about 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year. The new bus will be quieter than other buses in the fleet, Walder said, but will look the same as the 34 diesel-only buses in the district.

So far, New Britain and Middletown are the only districts to have rolled out hybrid buses. Walder said he’s hoping to spread the word about New Canaan’s involvement.

“I believe it is a low risk, and I believe it should be good press for the town of New Canaan,” Walder told the selectmen. “We do want to make it clear … that we’re giving this new concept a try.”

Selectman Rob Mallozzi III said he expects parents will want their children to ride the new bus once it’s in service in January. Walder said he has not completed the district’s bus routes for the 2011-12 school year and will not know what will happen until it receives approvals from the Board of Finance, the Town Council and another approval from the Board of Selectmen.

What do you think of the New Canaan school district's plan to add a hybrid bus to the fleet? Do you want your child to ride the hybrid bus? Get involved in the conversation by leaving your comment below. You can also visit our Facebook page.

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