Grand Valley Transit adding natural-gas buses

The local transit fleet is a step closer to adding two new people-movers that run on compressed natural gas, after Mesa County commissioners signed off on a purchase order Monday for the two new vehicles.

Grand Valley Transit already counts two 40-foot buses running on CNG, which were added to the fleet in November of last year. The two new buses set for purchase are a bit smaller, at 32 feet in length, said Mesa County Regional Transportation Planning Office manager Todd Hollenbeck.

Hollenbeck said Monday that the difference in price between a new CNG bus and a traditional diesel vehicle is about $50,000.

And, in referring to the two CNG buses already in service, he said, “In the first nine months, the difference between compressed natural gas and diesel, we’re seeing about $500 a month in savings.”

He said that number is probably closer to $800 to $1,000 a month in savings, as GVT has used the CNG buses in more of an expanded role lately.

Based on those cost savings, transit officials expect to recoup the additional cost of the new CNG buses within about eight years. The average lifespan of a CNG bus is about 12 years, Hollenbeck said.

The total cost for the two new vehicles is $812,500, according to the purchase order, and $650,000 of that will come from a grant administered by the Federal Transit Administration secured by the planning office in March 2012.

The remaining $162,500 comes from the GVT, “primarily from Grand Junction’s portion” of that group’s funding, according to Hollenbeck.

The purchase is made possible through what’s called a “piggyback” order — the two new buses will be added to an already existing order placed by the state of Minnesota to achieve the best purchase price possible for the new vehicles.

Hollenbeck said in September that he hoped the new buses could join the GVT fleet by the end of next year.


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