Over the past few weeks, Santa Clarita Transit has replaced 5 of its 13 diesel-powered commuter coaches with compressed natural gas commuter coaches–making it one of the first operators in the nation to utilize the alternative fuel for commuter buses.
Compressed natural gas is not only cleaner than traditional diesel, but it is also more cost effective over time. This alternative fuel source is nothing new to Santa Clarita Transit, which has been using CNG for their local routed buses since 2014.
However, the limited power and range of the CNG vehicles restricted their use to local service only and was not a viable option for the commuter buses. That all changed when Motor Coach Industries (MCI) introduced the more powerful Cummins 8.9-liter compressed natural gas engine to its line of commuter coaches in late 2014.
The timing of the new vehicle aligned with City Council’s January 2015 authorization of city staff to purchase five new commuter buses to replace Santa Clarita Transit’s oldest fleet vehicles. Given Santa Clarita Transit’s commitment to clean-burning compressed natural gas, and the fact that they already operate MCI’s 45-foot diesel coaches, the transition to CNG commuters was natural.
Following City Council approval, Santa Clarita Transit staff worked closely with Motor Coach Industries over the period of one year to create commuter coaches that met their specific needs. During the last two weeks of December 2015 the new buses left the factory in Pembina, North Dakota and made the 2,000 mile journey to Santa Clarita.
Since the arrival of the new buses, staff has been working tirelessly to get them road-ready. This includes completing California Highway Patrol safety inspections, relocation of fareboxes and other electronics from the old coaches and driver training on the new vehicles. In the last few weeks Santa Clarita Transit staff have been testing all components of the new buses and one-by-one placing them into service.
“It’s great to see our new compressed natural gas coaches on the road. Not only do they represent our ongoing commitment to provide safe and reliable service, but they demonstrate our desire to do so in an efficient and environmentally responsible fashion,” said Mayor Bob Kellar. “We hope our example encourages other agencies to make the change,” he added.
In November 2015 City Council authorized staff to purchase an additional five commuter coaches. Staff is excited to further embrace the new CNG commuters, and is aiming to have a 100 percent alternative fuel fleet within the next 10 years.
For more information about the City of Santa Clarita Transit and its fleet, please contact Santa Clarita Transit at (661) 294-1287 or email Administrative Analyst Alexander Porlier at firstname.lastname@example.org.