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Port Authority focusing on natural-gas bus fleet for proposed rapid transit line

| Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, 12:01 a.m.

Buses that will run along Port Authority of Allegheny County's proposed bus rapid-transit line from Downtown to Oakland will be fueled by natural gas, the agency's board chairman said Friday.

Chairman Bob Hurley announced at a Port Authority meeting that he established a committee that will study locations for a new Port Authority garage that could serve compressed natural gas buses, a project that could cost $70 million to $80 million. The committee will consist of fellow board members Rob Kania and Tom Donatelli as well as industry professionals .

“The goal of the committee is to assist the staff in the design and location for a new garage with the idea of primarily serving CNG buses,” Hurley said. “When we build the BRT line, the vehicles on that line will be CNG buses.”

Hurley and Port Authority CEO Ellen McLean said natural gas buses or garages are at least three to four years away.

“We think in the long term there will be a cost-savings and environmental value,” Hurley said. “We're sitting in a market where natural gas is being produced and we ought to be supporting that economic driver.”

Current Port Authority buses run on diesel along with 32 electric-hybrids.

Port Authority is not the first agency to explore natural gas-fueled buses. The 2,300 buses in the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority have been fueled by natural gas since 1994.

“The cost to operate and convert the fleet was quite expensive. The average CNG bus costs 15 percent more and maintenance costs are higher,” said Richard Hunt, general manager of the transit capital program in Los Angeles. “Los Angeles had been known for the dirtiest air in the country, and we said: ‘We're going to have a clean fuel fleet, period.'”

A study by Pittsburgh-based EQT in 2012 said it could cost $20.8 million to begin converting Port Authority's fleet to natural gas, but the move could save the transit agency $3 million a year.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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