Portland METRO Increases CNG Bus Fleet
As the largest year-round fixed-route transit provider in Maine, the Greater Portland Transit District (METRO) is committed to building a transit fleet that is 100% powered by alternative fuels.
METRO’s reach is considerable. The transit agency provides more than 1.4 million rides per year with its fleet of 32 buses – all of which are equipped with bike racks – and offers nine routes throughout Portland, South Portland, Westbrook and Falmouth. Thirteen of its buses run on compressed natural gas (CNG), and the agency plans to add five more CNG buses to its fleet in January 2014. As METRO grows its CNG fleet, its cost-saving and emission-reduction benefits grow as well
METRO was an early stakeholder of Maine’s statewide Clean Cities coalition, now known as Maine Clean Communities, a program of the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG).
Through Clean Cities funding, METRO secured seed money in 2001 to build a CNG fueling station and later to cover the incremental cost of its first five CNG buses, which replaced five aging diesel buses. The agency used FTA funding to upgrade its storage and maintenance facilities in preparation for housing and repairing CNG vehicles.
Maine Clean Communities also helped Portland Public Schools (PPS) acquire its first CNG school buses. PPS currently runs 13 CNG buses, which fill up at METRO’s fueling station and are maintained at METRO’s garage. Tapping into METRO’s infrastructure has allowed PPS to transition to CNG without incurring costly capital expenditures associated with building its own fueling and maintenance facilities. Like METRO, PPS plans to replace its entire diesel fleet with CNG buses.
These two forward-thinking fleets have been running CNG vehicles and sharing a CNG fueling station for seven years. The pioneering efforts of METRO and PPS set an excellent example for others to follow. In the coming year, two or three more CNG stations will be built in Maine, spurred by fleet demand.
METRO deserves recognition for its leadership and perseverance – in the end, the investment is paying off.
This article, written by Steve Linnell, Maine Clean Communities Coordinator, originally ran in October, 2013 in METRO Magazine, the magazine serving bus and rail transit and motorcoach operations since 1904.