Easter Seals Capital Region & Eastern CT

Easterseals Capital Region & Eastern Connecticut (Easterseals) is a nonprofit organization committed to helping individuals with disabilities who face barriers to life. With program participants ranging from individuals with traumatic brain injuries, chronic or persistent illness, and developmental disabilities, Easterseals achieves its mission by providing medical rehabilitation, vocational, and other supporting services.

Transportation is a key part of its service offering for program participants with mobility problems or those who live in remote areas. That said, under Connecticut regulation, people with disabilities participating in a program such as Easterseals cannot be left alone in a vehicle. Therefore, Easterseals is not able to fuel its gasoline vehicles during program hours. This required staff to come in early and for vehicles to be driven extra miles for fueling.  Easterseals was incurring significant gasoline, vehicle use, and staff costs just to gas the vehicles.

This problem led Easterseals to rethink its approach to transportation and the result was a total conversion to alternative fuel – specifically compressed natural gas (CNG).  The first component of the new approach was procurement of 16 CNG-powered vehicles, including Ford Transits and MV-1 wheelchair vans. The nine-passenger capacity of the Transits was a key cost-effectiveness consideration, but the model had limitations because the required placement of the CNG tank inside across the rear doors does not allow the use of wheelchair lifts.  As a result, Easterseals also turned to MV-1s, which allow wheelchair access in the front passenger seat. This provided an unexpected benefit.  Since most transit vehicles have wheelchair lifts in the rear of the vehicle, individuals with limited mobility must usually sit in the back of the van. MV-1’s front passenger seat access literally moves people with disabilities from the back to the front of the bus.

The second component of Easterseals’ CNG initiative was creating an on-site CNG fueling station that fills all the vehicles overnight. The Easterseals fleet provides an ideal situation for time-fill fueling, since staff finish routes at 4:30pm and do not use the vehicles until the next morning. Staff appreciate the “set it and forget it” system of fueling, since they no longer have to get to work early and drive long distances to fuel vehicles.

By using more fuel efficient vehicles, Easterseals has been able to reduce its fuel consumption by 20%. On top of that savings, however, Easterseals now pays $0.123 per mile for CNG, as compared to the $0.190 that they would have paid to use gasoline in these more fuel efficient vehicles. They are also able to save an additional $29,421 per year in staff and fuel costs by fueling onsite rather than driving to a remote station. As a nonprofit organization, all financial benefits realized by the new CNG strategy go back to the organization and are used to support Easterseal’s mission of changing the way the world defines and views disability.

For more information about Easterseals and their work, see http://www.Easter Seals.com/hartford/.