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Tahoe Transportation District to remove buses from fleet

Jack Barnwell
jbarnwell@tahoedailytribune.com

Tahoe Transportation District, (TTD) in a bid reduce costs, opted to retire or rotate out use of its compressed natural gas (CNG) buses and close down its fueling station at Lake Tahoe Airport.

The TTD board of directors made the decision at its July 10 meeting in Incline Village, paving the way for the district to focus solely on clean diesel vehicles.

District manager Carl Hasty said on Tuesday, the decision won’t adversely affect service or operations.



Hasty said four of the 15 buses that use compressed natural gas will be handed over to Tahoe Area Regional Transit in Placer County. The transfer would be conditional upon inspection to confirm no major mechanical defects.

“They are happy to receive them because CNG is one of their primary fuel sources whereas it’s not ours,” Hasty said.



In addition, two older trolleys that run on the compressed natural gas will be transferred to the West Shore for seasonal service out of Placer County’s Cabin Creek facility.

The other nine buses have either been rotated out or already exceeded their federally-approved lifespan.

This also means a 30-day termination of its contract with Trillium CNG, which performs maintenance on the fuel station at the airport. TTD will also end its lease at the airport with the city of South Lake Tahoe.

The lease agreement formally ended Oct. 14, 2012 after 10 years.

Removing the CNG fleet eliminates $72,000 in fixed operation and maintenance costs on top of variable operation costs from $10,000 to $15,000. Removing the fuel station from Lake Tahoe Airport would cost $11,000 but would allow the district to avoid $25,000 in required facility upgrades.

Additionally, TTD purchases 98 percent of the fuel. Only 2 percent of the fuel was purchased in 2014 by outside entities, including El Dorado County at $1,393, the U.S. Forest Service at $643, the city at $25 and private purchases of $2,306 in what the district has described as a shrinking market.

Tahoe Transportation District bought the CNG station with a $100,000 grant from the California Energy Commission and a $800,000 grant from the Federal Transportation Administration.

Hasty said that it wouldn’t affect the district’s fleet since the district received five new buses in May and another batch of four are scheduled for delivery in September. Overall, the fleet will drop from 41 active vehicles to 38.

Aside from the cost factor, Hasty said CNG buses lacked mileage and performance that natural diesel vehicles had.

“CNG vehicles are still used a lot in the valley but they lack the torque and power needed for the mountains,” Hasty said. “It makes no sense financially or operationally to continue.”


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