Natural gas bus gets high marks |

Natural gas bus gets high marks

The first compressed natural gas bus made its debut at South Lake Tahoe on Friday, but the newest addition to the STAGE bus fleet didn’t exactly run on time.

That’s because the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency held its weekly meeting on the bus, which was parked outside the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board office on Lake Tahoe Boulevard.

It was quite a hit. The new bus represents the future of public transportation in South Shore – no, not the fact that it doesn’t go anywhere, but rather the fact that this new bus runs 98 percent emission free.

“It was costly, but it’s worth it,” said Assistant City Manager Sue Schlerf. “The initial cost of converting a bus to a CNG system is about $43,000, bringing the total cost of this bus to $165,000,” she said. “But if we’re thinking about the health of the Tahoe Basin, then phasing out heavy transit diesel buses is very important. This is what the citizens have demanded.”

Funding for the energy efficient bus was obtained through a federal grant which was awarded to the state, and then parceled out to counties through Caltrans. The new “clean machine” will serve the Stage A route along U.S. Highway 50.

Acquisition of the bus is part of the Clean Cities Program, a U.S. Department of Energy Program established to promote the use of alternative fuels. The Lake Tahoe Clean Cities Coalition is working to acquire additional funding for new fueling stations and additional vehicles to further reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

“We hope to phase out all diesel exhaust buses by 2010,” said Nick Haven, a spokesperson for LTCCC. “That’s a lofty goal, but one we can meet. Diesel exhaust has been declared a harmful carcinogen by the California Air Resources Board, so it’s not something to be taken lightly.”

The John Deere CNG engine is also quieter and requires less maintenance. And, of course, it is MTBE free. The new bus can be identified by the new tailpipe, which is on the bumper, rather than the top of the bus.

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