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RTC steps on the (natural) gas

Out with the old and in with the new.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada is getting rid of its diesel powered buses and expanding its fleet of Compressed Natural Gas buses.

According to Stephen Gebhard, manager of fleet services for RTC, the move not only helps the company contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable environment, but it’s a cost saving initiative as well.

“A lot of factors went into the decision to add CNG buses and the biggest ones were that it’s ethological to reduce our carbon footprint and from a maintenance standpoint it’s cost intensive to keep diesel engines when you operate them in the desert,” he said.

The RTC is committed to purchasing up to 305 CNG buses to become 100 percent CNG-powered.

The company will be replacing 25 diesel-powered buses with CNG units each year.

“We should be 100 percent CNG by 2019 or 2020,” Gebhard said. “Operationally, the move should benefit us greatly.”

From a cost perspective, CNG is costs one-third the amount of diesel fuel. Operating cost per mile for CNG vehicles is 65 cents as compared to diesel-powered vehicles, which cost $1.50 per mile.

In addition to the fuel cost savings, RTC receives approximately $800,000 in fuel tax credits from the federal government each year, Gebhard said.

CNG buses will require the RTC’s nearly 1,000 bus drivers to receive training regarding how to respond in the event of a methane leak, which will sound an alarm on the bus.

“The engine will shut down if the alarm goes off so our drivers will need to know the proper way to evacuate,” Gebhard said. “Also, as we transition into one vehicle type, our training department will be able to focus their energy on only one vehicle.”

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