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American Public Transportation Association

 Transit News



Virginia Miller

 More than 35% of U.S. Public Transit Buses Use Alternative Fuels or Hybrid Technology

 Public Transportation is Leading the Way in Green Vehicles

In celebration of Earth Day, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reminds us that taking public transit is among the most effective ways of reducing our daily carbon footprint because of its ability to take cars off the road.  In fact, when APTA examined the bus fleet  alone, more than 35 percent of U.S. public transportation buses use alternative fuels  or hybrid technology, as of January 1, 2011.  This is a striking contrast to the 1.3 percent of automobiles that used  alternative-fuels in 2010, according to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Annual Outlook. 

“Public  transportation is leading the way with environmentally efficient vehicles,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “The public transit vehicle fleet is the proving ground for environmental technology that may some day become a part of the nation’s automobile fleet.”  

APTA statistics for early 2011 show that  18.6 percent of U.S. transit buses used compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and blends.  Almost 9 percent (8.8%) of public transit buses were hybrids and nearly 8 percent (7.9%) of public transit buses used biodiesel. 

“Today’s modern public transit bus is increasingly either a hybrid or is powered by fuels that are good for the environment,” said APTA Chair Flora Castillo.  “The public transportation industry is a green industry and is committed to improving the environment.” 

From operating environmentally-friendly bus and rail vehicles, building LEEDS certified facilities, using solar bus shelters, and  recycling bus wash water, the U.S. public transportation industry -- both public and private sectors -- uses green technologies to further reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, and help our country reach energy independence 

APTA noted  that U.S. public transportation use saves 37 million metric tons of carbon emission every year.  Additionally, since public transit use in the United States saves 4.7 billion gallons of gasoline annually, public transit riders are doing their part to help our nation be energy independent, according to APTA.   

A carbon savings calculator is available on   

As of January 1, 2011, 35.6% of all the public transit buses in the United States were alternate powered.  Hybrid buses, all electric buses and buses fueled by alternative fuels including compressed natural gas (CNG), biodiesel, and propane were common among public transit systems nationwide. CNG is the most widely used alternative fuel used by public transit systems, followed by hybrid buses and buses using biodiesel fuel.  Propone is a new, emerging fuel.  Listed below are examples of the diversity of bus fleets across the country in small, mid-sized, and large systems, starting with CNG buses. 

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Buses

  • Dallas, TX – DART’s  new fleet of CNG 40-foot buses fleet began service on January 28, 2013 and will replace the agency’s mix of diesel and liquefied natural gas buses by 2015.  The agency’s annual fuel costs will be cut by nearly two-thirds by the end of 2015.  DART is putting five new buses into service every week to replace the existing fleet.
  • Los Angeles, CA – LA Metro operates the largest CNG fleet in the U.S. with 2,200 CNG vehicles.  LA Metro also buys 15% of all transit buses in the United States. 
  • San Bernardino, CA – Omnitrans’ all CNG fleet will surpass the 100 million mile mark in April, 2013.  Omnitrans first started to purchase CNG buses in 1997 and was at the forefront of the transition from diesel fuel to compressed natural gas, adopting the clean fuel technology years before regional air quality regulations mandated the switch. 
  • State College, PA – Centre Area Transportation Authority’s entire fleet runs on CNG.  It was the first transit agency on the East Coast to convert its entire diesel fleet to one that operates entirely on alternative fuel. 

Hybrid Buses and All Electric Buses

  • Ann Arbor, MI - Ann Arbor Transportation Authority added 11 new clean diesel-electric hybrid buses to its fleet in March 2013. The total number of hybrids in service will be 52, bringing the fleet to 59% hybrid - - the highest percentage of operating hybrids in the U.S. 
  • Lee County, FL – Lee County Transit  took delivery of 24 new hybrid vehicles (22 buses and 2 trolleys) earlier this year, bringing the total number of hybrids to 31, which is 50% of the fleet.
  • Urbana, IL - Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District  operates diesel-electric hybrid buses that account for  more than half of its fleet.
  • West Covina, CA – Foothill Transit is operating an all electric bus that is charged at a docking station mid-route in under 10 minutes, allowing for continuous, environmentally beneficial transit service along one of the busiest routes.  It plans to  launch Line 291 as a fully electric, zero-emission route in late 2013, the first of its kind in Southern California. 

Biodiesel and Propane Buses

  • Peoria, IL - Greater Peoria Mass Transit District’s bus fleet runs on B20 Biodiesel, which is partially made of soybean oil, improves air quality and cuts reliance on foreign oil. 
  • Flint, MI – Mass Transportation Authority is in the process of receiving 60 new propane vehicles. 
  • Miami, FL – Hillsborough Transit Authority - 38% of the fleet has the latest EPA-certified low emission engines. 

Examples of Public Transit Systems With A Mix of Alternate-Powered Transit Buses

  • Phoenix, AZ – Valley Metro’s bus fleet uses CNG and biodiesel fuels, as well as electric-hybrid buses.            
  • Salem, OR – Salem-Keizer Transit’s fleet is made up of 34 CNG buses and 30 biodiesel buses.  In 2010, the transit district purchased its first hybrid gas/electric bus.   

Listed below are a sampling of other green activities at public transportation systems that improve the environment:


  • Los Angeles, CA – MetroLink is taking action to further reduce emissions by becoming the first commuter rail provider in the nation to buy Tier 4 locomotives, the cleanest-burning diesel engines on the market.
  • Pompano Beach, FL – Tri-Rail’s fleet runs on 99% biodiesel when it is available, but never less than 80%.  Due to the temperate climate, Tri-Rail is one of the few systems in the country that is able to use biodiesel year round.

 LEED Status Buildings

  • Ann Arbor, MI - Ann Arbor Transportation Authority is currently building a new Blake Transit Center that is estimated for completion in fall 2013, will serve as a dynamic transportation hub and welcoming destination in the downtown area, and will be certified LEED Gold status.
  • Boston, MA - Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority completed energy retrofits for about 50 facilities in the past two years.  This has saved nearly 7.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity and has resulted in a savings of just under $1 million in annual operating costs for electricity. 
  • Lee County, FL – Lee County Transit broke ground March 25, 2013 on a new facility that is designed to be LEED Silver status.
  • Los Angeles, CA – LA Metro’s new facilities, that are 10,000 square feet in area or larger, are required to achieve a minimum LEED-Silver designation. 
  • Urbana, IL - Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District’s geothermal heating and cooling system, used for the Administration and Operations building, has resulted in a 67% annual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions for this building’s HVAC system. This is a reduction of 97.2 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year. 


  • Boston, MA - Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority took an old polluted rail yard that was a neighborhood problem, cleaned it up, then built 2.5 megawatts of solar, one of the largest solar projects in Massachusetts.  The project will save the agency about $1.5 million in electricity costs over the next 20 years.
  • Lee County, FL – Lee County Transit committed three years ago to use solar lighting on all of its new shelters, of which there are now 68 either installed or in the process of being installed.
  • Los Angeles, CA – LA Metro has solar panels at facilities in Chatsworth, Sun Valley, Carson, El Monte, and downtown LA, which  reduce Metro energy costs by approximately $1 million and their carbon footprint by about 16,500 metric tons in 2010.
  • St. Petersburg, FL  -  Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority recently installed solar-powered trash compactors at several high traffic bus transfer centers. The units compact automatically and send an alert when they’re full and need service. The new compactors are saving the agency money, and reducing fuel consumption in the service vehicles.
  • Tampa, FL – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit - 65% of HART’s bus shelters have solar panels for lighting, with plans to include solar panels on all bus shelters within 2 years.
  • Urbana, IL - Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District replaced the roof of the Administration and Operations building with one made of white Thermoplastic Olefin, which reflects over 70 percent of sunlight. This decreases the amount of heat absorbed, reducing the need for air conditioning.


  • Phoenix, AZ – Valley Metro has a living roof (green plants absorb carbon dioxide and create cooling effect) at Superstition Springs Transit Center, Mesa, AZ.  The stations are designed to create a cooling effect in summer and capture sun for warmth in winter.
  • Seattle, WA – King County Metro’s vanpool fleet of 1,283 vans now includes 20 all-electric, zero-emission Nissan Leaf sedans. The nation’s first 100 percent electric vehicles (EV) “metropool” is running strong, delivering a cleaner, greener commute in the Seattle area.


  • Fort Worth, TX - Fort Worth Transportation Authority will become the first transit agency  in the U.S. to launch a bike share program as it officially rolls out with 300 bikes ridden by citizens to bike stations located throughout the central Fort Worth area.  This event will take place on Earth Day.

 Public Transit Businesses

  • Dayton, OH - Commuter Advertising provides environmentally-friendly advertising on buses and trains nationwide. The company leverages existing onboard passenger information equipment to broadcast onboard waste-free advertising messages.  Managed electronically, the advertisements require no new equipment or hardware and generate no physical waste.
  • Livonia, MI - ROUSCH CleanTech has seen a significant adoption of their propane autogas powered Ford E-450 shuttles.
  • New York, NY – Masabi, Ltd. - Using Masabi's JustRide mobile ticketing system, the MBTA has been able to switch more than 15% of fares from physical tickets, saving not just the impact of wasted paper and plastic, but litter from punched tickets.
  • Woodbury, NY - Clever Devices’ EcoDrive and Idle Monitor are two new products that help transit systems improve fuel economy and have a more sustainable operation. 

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    The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private sector organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA is the only association in North America that represents all modes of public transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada ride APTA member systems.


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