Although it is just one factor in air pollution, the EPA believes the reduction in emissions has improved Cleveland’s air quality.
“The automobile emissions have come down in Cleveland and in other areas, the vehicle testing, and cleaner fuels,” says EPA air quality expert John Mooney. He is in charge of monitoring Cleveland’s air.
In 2003, Cleveland's ground level ozone emissions was over one hundred parts per billion. In 2007, that number improved to 89 parts per billion closer to the ozone standard of 80.
“I would say that it’s improved significantly.”
Those figures correlate with when r-t-a put a "greener" fleet on the streets.
“Initially, in about 2003, we were one of the first systems in the mid-west to buy ultra-low sulfur fuel years before it was necessary. We paid about 8 cents more for that, but it was 90% cleaner,” says RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese.
The gas was more expensive. And as the technology developed, so were the buses themselves.
“Being clean is not cheap. Even with the hybrid electric, the differential is about 150 to 200 thousand per vehicle.”
The hybrid electric bus line will launch in October of this year.
And the other buses continue to get updated with particulate filters and more efficient engines.
So, is it worth all the money?
To the RTA, the air quality numbers are the pay off.
“So, you really don't do it because of the cost, you do it because this is the right thing to do, and probably through the life of the vehicle, it will have an economic payback,” says Calabrese.
EPA air experts say a reduction in power plant emissions and people driving more fuel efficient cars are also having an impact on those numbers.
With more emphasis on “green” technology and fuel efficiency, the EPA says the air quality will likely improve even more in the coming years.