EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – In 2013, 1,047,962 people rode the bus in Eau Claire, according to Eau Claire Transit. There are also 2.67 miles of on-road bike lanes and approximately 30 miles of off road bike trails. It’s just two ways the city wants to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
There are 22 buses in Eau Claire, but thanks to three hybrid buses that were added to the fleet two years ago and a fourth hybrid bus in the works for 2014, people in Eau Claire have more "eco-friendly" ways to travel than ever before.
“Hybrid technology is the right way to go because it's greener. I mean, we all have to live and breathe on the planet and the air has got to stay clean,” said Robert Boecher, fleet and facility manager for the city of Eau Claire.
Boecher said the hybrid buses get about 8 to 8 ½ miles to the gallon, where a standard bus diesel gets four. Eau Claire Transit said around $100,000 of fuel was saved in 2013.
“This particular bus uses 12,600 lithium ion C-sized batteries to propel the bus forward. It actually uses a diesel motor with a generator that keeps the batteries charged and what that does is it increase the overall fuel mileage,” said Boecher.
The police department’s patrol fleet is also “green” because they are flex fuel or E-85 capable.
“The city has purchased some electric carts so they can do all their maintenance, parks maintenance and don’t have to use any gasoline,” said Boecher.
GPS devices can be found in every bus, emergency vehicle and snow plow in the city, which can come handy for police or ambulances that need to get somewhere quickly.
“If they get a call for service, they can see where the closest squad car is closest ambulance is and dispatch them immediately,” he said.
Even the snow plow trucks have gone green this year, using a brine solution for pre-treating which reduces the amount of salt put down on the roads for a snow event.
And if you don't want to take the bus, you can ride choose to ride a bike lane.
Leah Ness is the transportation engineer for the city. She said the city has bike lanes on Water Street, Cameron Street, Melby Street and Highland Avenue.
This year, the city is working to add more bike lanes to 1st Avenue, Starr Avenue and Menomonie Street.
“We have a bike and pedestrian plan that we're trying to move forward with and connect different areas of the city with bike lanes and sharrows,” said Ness. “By providing bikeways, we're providing an alternative way to commute to work or run errands or even for some recreation, in turn that’s reducing the amount of emission going into our atmosphere.”
She said some other ways the transportation office is going green is through LED lights which will replace some of the city lights as street projects go underway this year.
Boecher said you’ll notice that many city vehicles don’t remain in idle, thanks to the anti-idle policy of 2011.
“What the anti-idle policy does is if a vehicle is out, it should not be left unattended idling for more than ten minutes,” said Boecher.