LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), operator of bus and rail service in Los Angeles County, has retired its last diesel bus this week. Its fleet is now made up almost entirely of natural gas buses. The “retirement” ceremony highlighted the significant contribution Metro has made in reducing air pollution in one of America’s smoggiest regions. “We proved from both a technical and economic standpoint that a large transit agency can operate with alternative clean burning fuels and this has led many other transit agencies to follow our lead,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Don Knabe.
Metro runs the second largest public transit bus operation in the United States with nearly 400 million annual passenger boardings, and its 2,228 buses log just under 1.5 billion miles a year.
Metro directors in 1993 decided to only order clean air vehicles, an action that paved the way for other transit agencies across the U.S. to opt for greener vehicles. After experimenting with methanol and ethanol buses that proved too corrosive for bus engines, Metro, ultimately, went with compressed natural gas (CNG) engines and today has 2,221 CNG buses, one electric and six gasoline-electric hybrid buses in its fleet. They have collectively logged 1 billion clean air miles.
Compared with diesel buses, Metro’s new CNG fleet reduces cancer-causing particulate matter by more than 80 percent. And because of the switch from diesel to CNG, Metro avoids emitting nearly 300,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per day.
Metro CEO Art Leahy, who helped spearhead the conversion to alternative fuels while heading bus operations for Metro’s predecessor agency, the Southern California Rapid Transit District, pointed out that this effort not only is good for the environment but it helps wean America from dependence on foreign oil because vast reserves of natural gas and other fuels exist in North America.
“Metro should be applauded for its leadership in helping to reduce our country’s reliance on foreign oil by powering their vehicles with safe, economical and domestically produced natural gas,” said Hal Snyder, vice president of customer solutions for Southern California Gas Co.
(Item primarily compiled using information from an LA Metro press release).