With the increased use of natural gas as a viable transportation fuel, more cities and states are taking action. Programs and plans to replace sanitation and fleet vehicles are being put into operation. Research is being conducted on fuel savings from converting to natural gas. Infrastructure is being created to refuel and refit vehicles. As a cleaner, more affordable fuel, the use of natural gas is on the rise across the nation.
Government entities and agencies that have made the switch include:
- Amador Regional Transit System – This quaint gold rush town located along historic Highway 49 in California’s gold country helped improve air quality while maintaining the historic feel of the area when the Amador Regional Transit System (ARTS) implemented a fleet of trolley buses. The trolleys are custom-built coaches with elaborate exterior design, curved windows and wood and brass interiors. They’re also fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG).
- Hamilton Township, New Jersey – Since 2009, all of the garbage in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, has been collected by natural gas-powered garbage trucks. The change is the result of a garbage contract negotiated by the township in 2008. They included a clean energy requirement in their bid proposal, and the winner was Hamilton-based Central Jersey Waste and Recycling. Township Business Administrator John Ricci said the 2008 contract cost about $15 million, versus $11 million for the previous 5-year contract negotiated in 2003. But he said the difference in price cannot be attributed only to the new fleet of 10 trucks, since inflation and an increase in the number of homes and businesses in that time meant the new contract would have been more expensive anyway. Central Jersey Waste and Recycling Vice President Michael Fiumefreddo said the company is currently fielding five of the ten new trucks, which were made by Autocar and powered by Cummins-Westport engines.
Fiumefreddo said the trucks were about 30% more expensive than comparable diesel models, but would be cheaper to operate since natural gas costs less than diesel fuel. To fuel the trucks, the company had Clean Energy Fuels build a slow fill refueling depot in Trenton. Hamilton is the first municipality in the state to switch to natural gas sanitation trucks. State Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Karen Hershey said natural-gas-powered vehicles emit fewer greenhouse gases and, more importantly for local residents, less of the kind of heavy, particulate pollution that can cause respiratory problems. “It’s a good idea on many fronts,” she said. She also noted the natural gas trucks are quieter than the old diesel ones. Fiumefreddo said local residents have been stopping the garbage crews to take a look at the new trucks. “I was surprised how many people came out to see the trucks,” Fiumefreddo said. “Not many people come out to see their garbage get picked up. When the story first picked up, it was a good response from the neighborhood.”
- Illinois Quad Cities – Officials with MetroLink announced that the bus system in the Illinois Quad Cities is getting $3 million in federal stimulus funds that will be used to buy buses that will run on CNG instead of diesel. Jeff Nelson of MetroLink says the natural gas buses burn about 80% cleaner than diesel and are much cheaper to operate. "Right now, our price on the compressed natural gas is somewhere between 85 cents to a dollar. Diesel is still in the $2.00 neighborhood. So as you look at the long term, the savings can accumulate pretty quickly," Nelson said. The eight new CNG buses should be in operation by next spring. Currently, about half of their 60 buses run on diesel and the other half run on natural gas.
- Leon County, Florida – Using monies from a federal grant, Leon County (Florida) Schools are replacing eight dirty diesel school buses with new CNG models. The $347,000 grant allows the district to get a little closer to the long-term goal of having 80 natural-gas school buses and a CNG fueling station that will be shared with the community. Energy Director Manny Joanos said the district was originally turned down for the competitive EPA grant in April 2008. However, in February, Joanos said he was notified money might be available because of federal stimulus dollars. So the district was encouraged to try again. Joanos said the federal grant will be used to pay for the $40,000 incremental cost of each bus. "The (natural-gas) buses will be much healthier for those who ride on the bus and those who ride behind (them)," said Joanos, who said the buses should arrive in March or April. Another advantage, he said, is that the district will save about 50% in fuel costs.
- Long Island, New York – Long Island Bus has introduced 100 new state-of-the-art CNG buses, replacing nearly one-third of the agency's aging fleet, including some buses that were nearly 15 years old and had logged a half-million miles. The Orion VII buses, priced at about $400,000 each, were purchased using a combination of grant money from the Federal Transit Administration and funds from New York State and Nassau County. Long Island Bus official say that the new buses emit 90% less harmful PM and 96% less NOx emissions, and are already in compliance with EPA’s 2010 emission standards. The agency first started operating natural gas buses in 1992, and completed the conversion of the fleet in 2004.
- National Park Service – The National Park Service purchased 20 low-floor CNG-powered transit buses to be used as part of the visitor transportation system at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. These buses will replace the park’s aging diesel and liquid natural gas (LNG) buses, making the Grand Canyon’s entire 29-vehicle visitor transportation system wheelchair accessible and 100% CNG powered. The voluntary shuttle system, which operates year round, consists of several routes and handles approximately 4.5 million riders a year.
- Norman, Oklahoma – The city of Norman, Oklahoma, has ordered two natural gas trash trucks, which are scheduled to be delivered by December. They will be the city’s first trash trucks to use CNG and may be among the first being tried anywhere in the state. A $114,000 grant from the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments will help offset the cost of the trucks. One truck, a side loader, originally priced at $299,446, will cost the city $204,446. A front loader, originally priced at $279,543, will cost the city $187,543. Trade-in values and the grant money reduce the cost to the city, according to figures in a council agenda.
- Ogden, Utah – Salt Lake City is the Utah town that gets a lot of news coverage about their NGV program. Now Ogden, Utah is joining them. The city has completed work on its first CNG station that will be used to serve 10 specially equipped refuse trucks. A $1.2 million lease/purchase agreement is funding the acquisition of the CNG refuse trucks and the installation of the fueling station. Four of the trucks have been delivered to the city and the remaining six should arrive over the next several weeks.
Annual fuel savings and money from the city's vehicle replacement fund will be used to pay for the trucks and to offset the costs of the fueling station's construction.
The city will purchase CNG for the station from Questar Gas. Currently, the comparative price for CNG is slightly less than $1 per gallon, and city officials believe the fueling station and new trash trucks will save the city at least $135,000 annually. The station will primarily use a slow-fill system. But the city hopes to install a fast-fill system capable of providing trucks with 50 gallons of CNG in an hour in the near future. Eventually, the city plans to sell CNG from the filling station to the public and other area government entities.
- Port of Los Angeles – The Clean Truck Program is designed to encourage rapid improvement of air quality at the Port of Los Angeles through use of grants and financial incentives that will allow trucking companies to accelerate the replacement of older, high-polluting trucks with newer, cleaner trucks. The program will also help to assure a long-term, sustainable local trucking system that will be able to facilitate goods movement at the Port for many years to come. A special feature of the program is that it provides subsidies to encourage the use of alternative fuels and other emerging technologies for powering new clean trucks.
As a key element of the Port’s sweeping Clean Air Action Plan, the Clean Truck Program is expected to create a more consolidated network of concessionaires who can be held accountable for maintaining trucks and employing properly trained and credentialed drivers. Proper maintenance will help ensure lower emissions output over the life of a truck.
The program also will enhance Port security and public safety because the concessionaires will have to ensure that their trucks and the employees that drive them meet security and safety standards. In addition, concessionaires will be required to have a designated place of business and provide proof of adequate off-street parking, reducing the impact of trucks driving into communities near the Port and parking in front of homes or businesses.
- San Bernadino Valley, California – By the end of August, Omnitrans plans to have 27 new CNG buses delivered, and with that, the San Bernardino Valley (California) public transit agency will be rid of the last of the diesel buses in its fleet. With the arrival of the new buses, the transit agency will complete the transition to a 100% natural gas fleet. Omnitrans began converting to natural gas buses in 1997. The new buses cost $525,000 each, and are manufactured by New Flyer and assembled in Crookston, Minnesota. The vehicles were paid for with a combination of federal, state and local transportation funds, along with a grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
- Santa Fe Trails – The Santa Fe Trails Transit System (SFT) provides a cleaner alternative to diesel or gasoline with its bus fleet. SFT currently employs 30 CNG-powered 55-passenger buses that travel nine routes seven days a week. The transit system has also constructed an on-site CNG fueling station that is open to the public. Since its creation, the SFT fleet has traveled more than 5 million miles.
- Shreveport-Bossier, Louisiana – Public transportation in Shreveport-Bossier, Louisiana is about to change as five CNG buses and a NGV station will be added. To help pay for the replacement of the old diesel buses with new CNG ones, SporTran is using funding from the federal stimulus package. "It's cleaner burning. It's more efficient and the equipment that we find in the cities that we've seen will operate for a longer period of time," said SporTran General Manager Gene Eddy. Eddy said that, if their fleet of buses ran on CNG, SporTrans would have saved more than $600,000 last year alone. "It's going to cost more to change our infrastructure to cover the compressed natural gas, but I think over time, we'll make our investment back," said Eddy.
- Smithtown, New York – Faced with rising refuse collection costs, the town required its refuse collection contractors to use CNG trucks. This makes it the first New York municipality to institute such a requirement, allowing the city’s 30 contractor-owned diesel refuse trucks to be replaced with 22 CNG models. Smithtown partnered with natural gas supplier Clean Energy, which completed a public fueling station in just six months with incentives from the town’s new contracts. Smithtown's success inspired the nearby town of Brookhaven, New York, to plan the deployment of 67 CNG trucks.
- South Coast Air Quality Management District – California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has awarded nearly $43 million to help school districts in the Southland region of Los Angeles purchase CNG and propane buses to replace the dirtiest diesel school buses in their fleets. More than 98% of the funds are allocated for CNG projects, including almost $37 million for the Los Angeles School District for 260 CNG buses.
“The number of school buses being replaced or retrofitted with this award is extraordinary and it’s a giant step toward our goal of cleaning up all school bus fleets in the region,” said William A. Burke, Ed.D., chairman of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. “This will help thousands of school children and their communities breathe a little easier.” The award will enable 13 school districts across the SCAQMD region to replace 304 model year 1987 and older buses with new, cleaner burning buses. Since 2000, SCAQMD, the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, has approved more than $152 million to replace over 930 older diesel school buses with cleaner models and retrofit 2,991 newer diesel buses with particulate traps.
- Southern California’s Foothill Transit – Southern California’s Foothill Transit has expanded its CNG fleet with redesigned CNG-powered NABI 42-BRT buses, for service in key areas of the Los Angeles-area San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. With over 300 buses deployed from multiple operating divisions, Foothill Transit covers a sprawling 327 square miles and transports 15 million passengers annually throughout the eastern part of Los Angeles County. In 2002, Foothill started a cleaner era by introducing the use of CNG fuel. And now – including its 30 new 42-foot BRT's – over 80% of Foothill's fleet use clean CNG fuel. “We’re definitely excited about our fleet of 30 new NABI 42-footers,” commented Doran Barnes, Foothill Transit’s Executive Director. “These modern buses really drive Foothill Transit into the 21st century. They’re a remarkable departure from the ’shoebox’ character of yesteryear’s buses.”
- Sunnyvale, California – California-based Specialty Solid Waste and Recycling (SSWR) replaced its diesel refuse haulers with CNG versions. Its fleet includes 37 vehicles, 30 of which are powered by CNG. SSWR partnered with the City of Sunnyvale to adopt CNG to meet the conditions of the California Air Resources Board refuse rule, which requires particulate filter traps on diesel trucks.
- Unitrans – The University of California at Davis (UCD) and the city of Davis, California, run a clean transit system for students. The fleet features 40 CNG buses, including the only CNG vintage double-decker bus in the world. 93% of the miles operated by Unitrans are provided by natural gas buses