As the largest year-round fixed-route transit provider in Maine, the Greater Portland Transit District
(METRO) is committed to building a transit fleet that is 100% powered by alternative fuels.
METRO’s reach is considerable. The transit agency provides more than 1.4 million rides per year with its fleet of 32 buses — all of which are equipped with bike racks — and offers nine routes throughout Portland, South Portland, Westbrook and Falmouth. Thirteen of its buses run on compressed natural gas (CNG), and the agency plans to add five more CNG buses to its fleet in January 2014. As METRO grows its CNG fleet, its cost-saving and emission-reduction benefits grow as well.
METRO was an early stakeholder of the local Clean Cities coalition, now known as Maine Clean Communities. Through Clean Cities funding, METRO secured seed money in 2001 to build a CNG fueling station and later to cover the incremental cost of its first five CNG buses, which replaced five aging diesel buses. The agency used FTA funding to upgrade its storage and maintenance facilities in preparation for housing and repairing CNG vehicles.
Maine Clean Communities also helped Portland Public Schools (PPS) acquire its first CNG school buses. PPS currently runs 13 CNG buses, which fill up at METRO’s fueling station and are maintained at METRO’s garage. Tapping into METRO’s infrastructure has allowed PPS to transition to CNG without incurring costly capital expenditures associated with building its own fueling and maintenance facilities. Like METRO, PPS plans to replace its entire diesel fleet with CNG buses.
As METRO grows its CNG fleet, its cost-saving and emission-reduction benefits grow.
These two forward-thinking fleets have been running CNG vehicles and sharing a CNG fueling station for seven years. The pioneering efforts of METRO and PPS set an excellent example for others to follow. In the coming year, two or three more CNG stations will be built in Maine, spurred by fleet demand.
METRO deserves recognition for its leadership and perseverance — in the end, the investment is paying off.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "5 Easy Tips to Make Public Transit Safer and Greener."
GRTC is a member of the Virginia Clean Cities (VCC) coalition, which over the years has hosted a variety of workshops, webinars and other training opportunities for fleets interested in transitioning to CNG. Another coalition member — the City of Richmond — inaugurated its fleet of CNG refuse haulers in 2011, which set the stage for GRTC’s transition. View the YouTube video to see how VCC helped the city implement its CNG fleet.
A long-time champion of cleaner, greener technologies, the Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) has provided public bus service to California’s Western Riverside County since 1977. RTA’s service area is among the nation’s largest, covering 2,500 square miles. The agency operates more than 160 buses on 36 fixed routes and eight commuter routes, 98 dial-a-ride vehicles, and 10 trollies.
Building new maintenance facilities for transit agencies are rarities, but when agencies do build them, it’s critical to design and build to the highest performance possible — these facilities and their efficiencies will live on for decades. As part of preserving limited revenue, agencies are focusing on how efficiently design facilities can help the bottom line.
Switching our bus fleet to compressed natural gas from liquefied natural gas and diesel was a carefully weighed decision at DART. But in the end, it was a no-brainer: go with the fuel source that will promote clean air while saving taxpayers $120 million in fuel costs over the next 10 years.
Maintenance facilities are the operational backbone of transit agencies, helping wash, clean and maintain thousands of buses, railcars and ferries each and every day. This regular maintenance makes them huge consumers of water and energy (and money). Many cities across the country are mandating transit agencies create more efficient facilities not only as good stewards of the environment, but also to help the bottom line.