Pace becomes first transit agency in Chicagoland, third in Illinois to operate CNG buses


March 29, 2016 12:00:00 PM
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Local, state and federal officials join Pace leaders at dedication of compressed natural gas fueling station

MARKHAM, IL- Pace is going green- and expects to save some green at the same time as the agency begins the process of replacing its fleet of diesel buses with models powered by compressed natural gas (CNG). Pace leaders were joined today by federal, state and local officials at the dedication of an all-new fueling facility at its South Division garage in Markham on which the agency recently completed construction. When the buses enter service this summer, Pace will be the first transit agency in the Chicago area and the third in the state to adopt CNG technology for its fleet.

Pace has taken delivery of its first 20 CNG buses, with an additional 71 on order that will replace the remaining diesel buses at Pace South Division, which is responsible for the operation of 21 bus routes covering the south suburbs and south side of Chicago. The first CNG buses will enter service this summer following completion of vehicle testing, staff training and additional garage retrofits to accommodate the CNG vehicles. Once the entire South Division fleet is converted to CNG-powered buses, Pace estimates the agency will save up to $1 million on its fuel costs versus what it spends today on diesel fuel, and those savings will rise as other garages are converted to CNG operations in the future.

"We're making a significant investment in clean-burning compressed natural gas to improve our environmental sustainability and also achieve some potentially major cost savings," said Pace Chairman of the Board Richard Kwasneski. "As we achieve these fuel cost savings, we plan to reinvest the resources into enhancing and expanding service for our customers."

Construction of the fueling facility and garage retrofitting is a combined $12 million project, paid for using Pace-issued bonds to be paid off over the next ten years. The project created an estimated number of direct and indirect jobs ranging between 200 and 300 according to various economic impact formulas. Additionally, CNG is produced domestically, reducing dependence on foreign oil and supporting economic development in the U.S. energy sector.

Pace studied the experiences of other U.S. transit agencies with various forms of green technology including CNG, hybrids and electric buses and determined that CNG would provide the best economic return. Roughly two in five transit buses in the United States is powered by alternative fuels, with one in five powered by CNG. Los Angeles Metro estimates it realizes operating cost savings between 10 and 20% since it retired its last diesel bus in 2011 in favor of an all-CNG fleet, and reduced the release of greenhouse gases by about 300,000 pounds per day as well.

Because CNG is a clean-burning fuel, Pace will be able to meet ever-tightening EPA emissions guidelines without the need for costly equipment designed to trap particulate matter released into the air by diesel engines. Pace officials also note other environmental and financial benefits: without the carbon deposits left in engines by diesel fuel, buses can operate on longer intervals between oil changes and will no longer need potentially expensive midlife engine overhauls.

Pace's new CNG fueling facility cost approximately $3 million, with an additional $9 million investment in the CNG retrofit and mid-life overhaul of the South Division garage. Although the purchase price of Pace?s new CNG buses is approximately $50,000 higher per vehicle than a comparable diesel bus, the fuel cost savings offset the higher cost. Additionally, Pace may exercise an option to open its CNG fueling facility to other CNG vehicle fleets and possibly the general public in which the sale of natural gas could generate additional revenue.



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