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The Valles Caldera Trust has been awarded a $545,000 federal grant that will allow visitors to tour the Valles Caldera National Preserve in the quiet comfort of a solar powered all-electric shuttle bus. The grant is one of 29 awarded nationally by the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in the Parks Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Authority.
The grant will fund the purchase of an all-electric 26-passenger ADA-compliant shuttle bus to replace two gasoline-powered 12-passenger vans currently in use. Construction of a solar photovoltaic panel array to power the vehicle, establishment of charging stations and a garage to house the bus are also included in the funding.
“The grant allows us to test the durability and suitability of all-electric vehicles on our roads and terrain,” said Dennis Trujillo, executive director of the Valles Caldera Trust. “We hope the experiment will lead to conversion of the entire fleet to all-electric vehicles, which will reduce the environmental impact to the preserve, enhance the visitor experience and reduce costs.”
The Trust estimates a $60,000 annual savings in fleet operation costs during the first five years of the program in addition to a decrease in road maintenance expenses. Once suitable sites are selected, the Trust will develop a general plan for the construction of the solar array and garage. The goal is to have the bus operational for the spring season of 2014.
“Once our shuttle bus system is established, we can eventually connect it to a regional public transportation network,” Trujillo said. “We could link Bandelier National Monument, Santa Fe National Forest and the communities of Los Alamos/White Rock with the Valles Caldera National Preserve.”