CA: Omnitrans’ Journey: 100 Million CNG Miles

This April, Omnitrans buses will surpass the 100 million mile mark in CNG miles traveled. That’s like driving from here to the sun, and then some.

The journey began in 1997 with the arrival of Omnitrans’ first CNG buses. Omnitrans led the way in the transition from diesel fuel to compressed natural gas, adopting the clean fuel technology years before South Coast Air Quality Management District regulations mandated the switch for transit fleets. By 2009, the entire transit agency’s fleet of 160 buses was running on clean-burning natural gas.

“Omnitrans helps keep the San Bernardino Valley clean and green by using alternative fuels to reduce harmful emissions,” said Omnitrans CEO/General Manager Milo Victoria.

Natural gas buses release 88 percent less particulate matter per passenger mile than traditionally fueled diesel buses. CNG fuel is also more economical.

“Natural gas fuel prices have stayed about the same since we started,” Maintenance Director Jack Dooley said. “However, diesel fuel costs have consistently risen over time.”

Currently Omnitrans pays about $1.30 per gallon for natural gas compared to diesel at about $4.00 per gallon. The U.S. has abundant natural gas resources, which provides low cost reliability.

Safety is another advantage of CNG, compared to petroleum based fuels, which are highly toxic and contain known carcinogens. Natural gas is nontoxic, dissipates harmlessly into the atmosphere if released and leaves no residue, making for a cleaner and safer working environment for mechanics.

“Natural gas propulsion is becoming main stream in commercial vehicle fleets,” Dooley said.

Omnitrans uses about 2.1 million gallons of natural gas annually.

The newest additions to the Omnitrans CNG fleet are 60-foot, articulated vehicles for the sbX bus rapid transit line set to launch in 2014. They are the first CNG-powered, 5-door transit coaches ever manufactured for a US transit agency and thus required rigorous industry testing. The 5-door configuration is needed to serve both curb-side and center-street stations now under construction in San Bernardino and Loma Linda.

To celebrate 100 million CNG miles, Omnitrans plans special activities during April including a chance to win a $100 retail gift card and 100 days of free bus rides.