Riverside Transit Agency Buses Fill up on Natural Gas, Provide Free Rides for Students

Posted on October 22, 2014 by Taylor York - Also by this author

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. On an average workday, RTA buses provide more than 32,000 passenger rides, and during the last fiscal year, provided a record 9.5 million.

In 1988, long before today’s strict air quality regulations, RTA was among the first to pioneer the use of low-emission methanol buses. When the agency built its new headquarters in 1986, it installed a dedicated alternative fuel system for fueling these buses — a rare move when diesel was king. In 2001, RTA took a major step by converting its entire fleet of 94 diesel buses to compressed natural gas (CNG), despite the $50,000 price premium over diesel buses.

“RTA wanted to make a statement and strong commitment to cleaner air,” according to Brad Weaver, marketing manager for RTA. “Our use of CNG not only saves the environment, but it saves the agency nearly $2 million a year in fuel cost compared to diesel.”

Earlier this year, RTA replaced 97 older buses with new 42-foot CNG buses. The new buses, which carry up to 38 seated and 17 standing passengers, feature innovative technology, such as USB charging ports for mobile phones and tablets, security cameras, GPS systems and colored head signs. The buses are designed for quicker wheelchair fastening, reducing customer boarding and alighting times. Sixteen are CommuterLink Express buses, which provide free Wi-Fi. Passengers also enjoy more spacious interiors and more comfortable seats, which are easier to maintain and repair.

The benefits of RTA’s CNG efforts extend beyond the agency. One of its two CNG fueling stations is open to the public, which supports alternative fuel vehicle adoption in the area. The agency also serves as a regional champion of alternative fuels and is a regular participant in outreach events hosted by the Western Riverside County Clean Cities Coalition. As a coalition stakeholder, RTA helps spread the word about the alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies available today.

For more than seven years, RTA has gone beyond reducing its own emissions. The agency has reduced the number of vehicles on the road by offering unlimited free rides to local college students. Its Go-Pass and U-Pass programs have been hugely successful and were renewed in 2013 with six partner schools: California Baptist University, La Sierra University, Moreno Valley College, Mt. San Jacinto College, Riverside City College, and University of California, Riverside. By participating, students save money and reduce campus traffic. During its first two years, RTA found that the program at the Riverside Community College District was responsible for preventing 7.4 tons of carbon dioxide, 1,379 pounds of reactive organic gas, 1,280 pounds of nitrous oxide and 468 pounds of particulate matter emissions.

RTA also operates a number of its support vehicles on CNG and plans to continue its commitment to clean fuels.

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