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Santa Clarita buses set to go greener

Compressed natural gas remains fuel of choice for public transportation

Posted: May 16, 2009 10:21 p.m.
Updated: May 17, 2009 6:00 a.m.
 
Santa Clarita plans to replace eight diesel buses with ones that run on compressed natural gas next year, a city transit official said Friday.

The swap will mean that 36 of the city's 52 local buses will be powered by the low-pollution alternative fuel. It also means that the city's entire local fleet will be green within the next decade, said Adrian Aguilar, interim transit coordinator.

"Part of it was just a conscious decision by the city to go green," he said.

A regional air-quality agency's 2005 order also forced the city and other local governments to switch their fleets over to run on alternative fuels.

The city chose to use clean-burning compressed natural gas because of its relatively low cost - about half the price of diesel, Aguilar said. It's among the most inexpensive alternative fuels, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The gas is compressed at pressures of up to 3,600 pounds per square inch. At that pressure, about 5.7 pounds of the natural gas is equivalent to a gallon of petroleum.

The compressed natural -gas buses refuel nightly at a station the city maintains on Alta Vista Avenue near Copper Hill Drive.

Santa Clarita also has a fleet of 19 diesel commuter buses that carry residents into and out of the Santa Clarita Valley to destinations ranging from Los Angeles to the Antelope Valley.

But those won't be swapped out, Aguilar said. Natural-gas buses aren't powerful enough to handle commuter buses' faster and often steeper uphill routes.

The diesel buses are equipped with filters that trap up to 90 percent of the pollution they emit, he said.

Other future upgrades to city buses include a customer information system, which will allow bus riders to use cell phones to check, real-time, the estimated time of arrival for the next bus at their stop.

The city is testing the system on a few buses and plans to begin installing it on the entire fleet near the end of the month. The process could be complete as early as the end of the summer, Aguilar said.

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