June 8, 2010

Santa Fe Metro Fleet Runs on Natural Gas

CNG buses are reliable, have cleaner-burning engines, offer increased oil life, and have lower fuel costs than diesel.      
James Dillingham, Fleet and Facilities Manager, Santa Fe Trails

Santa Fe Trails Transit System, the metro transportation system in New Mexico's capital city, claims the distinction of having the first all compressed natural gas (CNG) transit fleet in the United States. From the outset, Santa Fe residents wanted a transportation system that would preserve Northern New Mexico's clean air and blue skies, which are so valued by tourists and residents alike.

"When our system first went into operation in 1992, we were a test market," said Transit Director Jon Bulthuis. "Since then, other technologies have become available, but natural gas has proven efficient for our applications."

Today, Santa Fe Trails operates 30 CNG-powered, full-sized transit buses for fixed-route service and four CNG sedans for paratransit service. Plans include replacing the remaining 16 paratransit vans with natural gas vehicles. CNG infrastructure is city-owned, and includes 34 time-fill fueling poles. A public-access natural gas fueling station that operates 24/7 is also on the premises.

"CNG buses are reliable, have cleaner-burning engines, offer increased oil life, and have lower fuel costs than diesel." said James Dillingham, fleet and facilities manager for Santa Fe Trails.

Bulthuis said the buses operate well at the city's 7,000-foot altitude and appreciates that the natural gas the transit agency uses is produced in the San Juan Basin in northwest New Mexico.

"That means we're using a domestic resource with lower fuel transportation costs," Bulthuis said. "We believe we've made the right choice for Santa Fe, both environmentally and economically."

Photo of a CNG decal on a vehicle.