Photo of a blue bus on a snowy mountain road.

Colorado transit authority’s natural gas-powered buses conquer high terrain, perform in sub-zero temperatures

The Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA) and its VelociRFTA Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) program, which provides daily commuter bus service from Aspen, to Glenwood Springs, to Rifle, Colorado, is no stranger to operational challenges. In fact, the VelociRFTA BRT covers one of the most severe regions in the country, with buses challenged by steep ascents, altitudes close to 8,000 feet, and extreme winter temperatures nearly four months out of the year.

A new case study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Developing a Natural Gas-Powered Bus Rapid Transit Service, examines how RFTA—the second-largest public transit system in Colorado—made the decision in 2013 to implement the nation’s first natural gas-powered rural bus rapid transit system. Now nearly two and a half years later, RFTA’s 22 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses have driven more than 3 million miles—a testament to the dependability of CNG in the transit industry and harsh conditions.

Developing a Natural Gas-Powered Bus Rapid Transit Service details the lessons learned from RFTA’s experience of investigating—and ultimately choosing—CNG for their new BRT program and focuses on the unique environment of RFTA’s BRT application. The case study also details the decision process to include CNG fueling in the project. In addition, it describes operational challenges and highlights how the agency garnered a positive public perception. Finally, the paper outlines the costs for CNG against competing fuels and explains the considerations for indoor fueling facilities and project funding.

For more information, read the full case study.

  • Kendall Septon, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • Clean Cities Technical Response Service Team
  • 800-254-6735