Greener Coach Travel Gets Traction

Posted on August 5, 2010 by Nicole Schlosser - Also by this author

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While motorcoach operators already offer customers a greener travel alternative with high passenger volume, the future holds even more promise for promoting coaches as an eco-friendly option.

A new certification program has emerged that will showcase the benefits of greener transportation and motivate operators and clients alike to choose it. The next generation of alternative fuels also will help define green motorcoaches in the next 10 years.

The United Motorcoach Association (UMA) is working with the University of Vermont on the Green Coach Certification Program, which will go beyond simply certifying companies as "green" by measuring performance.

"The project really recognizes our contribution and encourages companies to participate in the reduction of greenhouse gases," says Victor Parra, president and CEO of UMA.

If Congress does move on a cap-and-trade bill, coach operators will be able to measure how much they reduce greenhouse gas emissions, (GHGs) and sell that to other entities that may exceed their cap requirements, such as a utility, Parra says.

"Once we get this off the ground, we can publicly demonstrate our contribution to reducing GHGs," Parra says. "I think this will make a huge impact on our industry."

Green certification pilot

Transportation is a major source of GHG emissions worldwide, mostly from gasoline but also from vehicle air conditioners. In the U.S., the transportation sector produces nearly 33% of all GHG emissions, with passenger transportation accounting for about 70% of those emissions, says Dave Kestenbaum, professor and senior program manager of the Vermont Tourism Data Center at the University of Vermont.

Kestenbaum heads up the research project for the Green Certification Program. His research team is working with American Bus Association, UMA, and the EPA to make the pilot permanent and offer a labeling program for those motorcoaches that can be certified.

The group targeted the motorcoach industry because buses have proven to be one of the greenest ways to travel. Kestenbaum says. "With vehicles that usually get 150-plus passenger miles per gallon, that equates to very low carbon intensity per passenger mile," he says. "Motorcoaches have a great story to sell and to tell. This is just another way for them to communicate it to the public."

Most operators already meet at least one of the criteria for the Green Coach Certification Program: Meeting or exceeding the industry average of 148 passenger miles per gallon; running an EPA 2010-compliant engine; offsetting carbon emissions by 80% through a carbon trading program; using an alternative fuel such as biodiesel; and having a verifiable energy conservation and recycling program.

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