Video: PARTA plans for diesel fueling alternative


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Video by Gabriel Kramer.

By 2015, PARTA plans to have a compressed natural gas fueling station at its location off of Summit Street and a 50/50 split between buses that accept CNG and buses that still run on diesel fuel.

Bryan Smith, director of planning for PARTA, said the transition to CNG-fueled buses means using “a cleaner-burning fuel, more readily available and it’s underneath our feet, as opposed to being over-seas.”

Portage County is designated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency as a non-attainment area, meaning its quality of air is worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Due to the area’s need for improved air quality, PARTA qualified for a $1.6 million grant called the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality fund, awarded by federal funds gatekeeper Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, or AMATS.

Curtis Baker, planning administrator at AMATS, said the company funds projects it believes are going to have a positive effect on the community and the area’s air quality.

“Buses run not quite 24/7, but they run a good probably 16 hours a day if not more on certain days,” Baker said. “So, CNG seems like a pretty logical choice to invest in.”

Smith said not only will the use of CNG-powered buses better Portage County’s air quality, but it will also be a more cost-effective investment.

“We spend $1 million a year on diesel fuel,” Smith said. “Theoretically, we could save as much as half of that if we went completely to CNG.”

Smith said the cost of using CNG is equivalent to paying $1.43 a gallon for diesel fuel, when the company currently pays $3 a gallon.

Saving money on fuel means the company will be better able to serve the community.

“We’ll take the money we saved from buying diesel fuel and plow that into being able to add more hours on the road providing service,” Smith said.

Smith and Baker have seen this model work with other public transits as well. The Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority has been using CNG-powered buses for more than a decade and the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority recently switched to the alternative, opening a public fueling station as well.

“Anybody from the public with a credit card and a CNG accepting vehicle can pull up, fuel up and go,” Smith said.

Smith said the public fueling station has actually generated revenue for SARTA. He plans to replicate the station in Portage County in the future.

During the past 20 years, Harold Walker, 86, has met with the Kent Environmental Council every Friday at 8 a.m. for breakfast at the Little City Grill. There, the retired minister of the Kent Presbyterian Church first started talking about community transportation.

“I believe when we talk about our basic environmental problems, that the automobile culture is at the roots,” Walker said. “Our transportation habits are so dependent on the automobile.”

Walker feels strongly about the use of public transportation as an alternative to personal vehicles, and as the PARTA has plans to go green, he supports it even more.

Contact Alyssa Morlacci at [email protected].