News Sartell St. Joseph — 15 May 2014
Metro Bus introduces CNG fleet

by Dennis Dalman

news@thenewsleaders.com

St. Cloud Metro Bus is expected to save $300,000 in fuel costs, thanks to its new line of buses that runs on compressed natural gas.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony to introduce the new buses is set for 10 a.m. Friday, May 16 at the Metro Bus Operations Center, 665 Franklin Ave. NE, St. Cloud. Speakers at the event will include St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis and Metro Bus Executive Director Ryan Daniel, as well as officials from Xcel Energy, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the local New Flyer bus company and the office of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

St. Cloud Metro Bus is the first public-transit agency in Minnesota to operate a bus fleet fueled by compressed natural gas. The CNG project is the most complex project ever undertaken in the service’s 55-year history. The investment cost $8 million for construction and renovation and $11.4 million for brand-new buses.

Each new CNG bus costs $445,000, which is $40,000 more than a non-CNG, diesel-fueled bus. However, Metro Bus officials say the new buses will save an estimated $300,000 in fuel costs annually throughout a 10-year period. Another plus is that CNG buses are much cleaner, more environmentally friendly vehicles.

The 35-foot Xcelsior CNG buses are built by the New Flyer company in St. Cloud.

Currently, Metro Bus has a fleet of 67 buses. This year, it will replace 23 fixed-route buses with the new CNG buses, along with six CNG paratransit buses.

The buses are fueled at a compressed-gas fueling station.

The CNG project at Metro Bus is funded by a $3.35 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation Clean Fuels grant program, a $9.1 million MnDOT grant and a local revenue bond.

St. Cloud Metro bus operates in Sartell, St. Cloud, Sauk Rapids and Waite Park, with some of its operating revenues contributed by those cities. It runs seven days a week and its total trips are about 2.4 million per year, counting fixed-route rides, commuter bus rides and dial-a-ride service.

photo courtesy of www.newflyer.com
St. Cloud Metro Bus is the first public-transit agency in Minnesota to operate a bus fleet fueled by compressed natural gas.

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About Author

Dennis Dalman
Dennis Dalman

editor@thenewsleaders.com Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.

(1) Reader Comment

  1. This investment in CNG-fueled buses by St. Cloud Metro Bus is troubling. They’ve used $12.45 million of taxpayer money to spend $11.4 million on 23 buses ($495,652 per bus). I have to assume the other $7.45 million of the total $19.9 million investment is coming from the revenues of Metro Bus.

    The estimated savings in fuel are $300,000 per year ($13,043 per bus). Unless my math is wrong, that means it would take more than 38 years to recuperate the investment of each bus, not including the costs of establishing the fueling station. The savings estimates also do not seem to factor in any potential increases in the price of CNG over the next ten years, much less the next 38 years. Furthermore, I highly doubt that these buses will be operable for 38 years without significant additional maintenance costs.

    I’m all for cleaner air. I’ve been addicted to oxygen since the day I was born. CNG has an emissions rating of 117 whereas diesel fuel has a rating of 161.3. (pounds of CO2 to BTUs of energy generated)

    There are ways to cut diesel emissions by as much as 60 percent if a person does their homework. To my knowledge, there are not any additional ways to reduce CNG emissions below 117. An article on 2-14-14 in USA Today indicated that CNG is likely not going to have an impact on reducing global warming issues when used in vehicles as an alternative to diesel fuel. Natural gas can have a huge impact when converting from coal, but not from diesel fuel in vehicles.

    I would be more than happy to assist St. Cloud Metro Bus in reducing the costs and emissions associated with their remaining diesel buses so that they can avoid further investment in CNG buses that have a 38-year return on investment. My attempts have gone unanswered.

    By my calculations the total investment including the fueling station has a payback of up to 60 years. That’s simply not a feasible investment of taxpayer money.

    Mike Gunderson
    Xp3 Distributing
    320-291-7476

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