Airport to test drive bus with engine retrofit

BURBANK — A newly reorganized Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority wasted no time delving into a smattering of issues, from pricey low-emissions buses to falling parking fee revenues and a decision to lobby against a proposed law that would require quicker response times for airport fire departments.

Former Pasadena City Councilwoman and longtime authority board member Joyce Streator was elected Monday to her third term as president, with Glendale Mayor Frank Quintero chosen as vice president. The reorganization comes at a time when the airport is trying to push its Part 161 noise curfew study through the Federal Aviation Administration.

At the same time, the slow economy continues to pull down operating revenues and year-to-year passenger figures, which have recorded double-digit drops every month since December.

Parking revenues at Bob Hope Airport were down 17%, or $355,415, in June compared with the same period last year, said Dan Feger, the airport's executive director.

But the drop was less than the 25% hit the airport authority had expected when budgeting for the new fiscal year.

“We are still outperforming our forecast,” Feger told the board. “We will watch and see and keep our fingers crossed.”

The airport saw 424,057 fewer passengers from January to May compared with the same period last year, a drop of nearly 18.5%, according to the authority.

While less revenue has forced the airport authority to trim back its wish list of capital improvements, airport officials have still pressed forward on some projects.

The commission approved a project to reduce emissions from the airport's fleet of buses. Ashley Moore, consulting professional from E2 ManageTech Inc., formerly known as Essentia Management Services, made a presentation to the authority on the process and results from a study on the most efficient and financially sound approach to reducing emissions in their fleet of 14 buses. The process was part of the authority's Heavy Duty Vehicle Emission Reduction and Procurement Policy adopted in June 2006.

The commission on Monday voted to move ahead with a pilot program to retrofit one of its 14 buses to operate on compressed natural gas as part of a 2006 policy to cut down on emissions at the airport.

Moore looked at several alternative fuel engines, from electric power to diesel, and recommended the authority go with an engine that uses compressed natural gas.

Moore also recommended against converting the entire fleet until a trial study of 12 to 24 months is complete for one of the buses, given the $110,000 price tag per retrofit and the fact that there are no compressed natural gas fueling stations at the airport.

Feger said the trial study would allow authorities to determine the advantages and disadvantages of the engine through all seasons. If the results were positive, the plan would be to convert the buses as finances became available and build a fueling station on airport property.

But finances could be strained even more if a federal provision of the FAA's Reauthorization Act makes it through the Senate, airport officials said.

The provision would require airport fire departments to shorten their response times and be able to handle hazardous materials, potentially adding millions to the cost of funding on-site firefighting, officials said.

Many of those calls are handled by the Burbank Fire Department. Forcing Bob Hope Airport to take them on could cost the airport authority another $7.2 million, said Capt. John Scanlon of the Bob Hope Airport Fire Department.

“We have no idea who is supposed to pay that,” he said.

The authority voted to send a letter of opposition to Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein concerning the reauthorization act, which passed the House of Representatives in May.

“This would drastically affect us if it were passed,” Scanlon said.

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