Roaring Fork Transportation Authority Takes off With Natural Gas Transit

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority
or RFTA provides mass transit to several areas of Colorado, including Aspen, Glenwood Springs,
Snowmass, Pitkin and Eagle Counties, Basalt, and others. RFTA secured funding to begin
a bus rapid transit system to provide faster, reliable, convenient mass transit to its customers,
and as a part of this plan they decided to choose natural gas instead of diesel. This
project is the first rural bus rapid transit system in the country. It includes 22 new
CNG buses, 3 CNG fueling stations, 1 that is indoor. It received the White House Champions
of Change Transportation Innovators Award, and plans to convert all 92 buses are in the
making. This project is significant and progressive
for many reasons, the first being that RFTA operates at a very high altitude, often over
8,000 feet, and serves a very rural community. The functionality of CNG buses was scrutinized
because the nature of their routes required large amounts of torque and power even at
high elevation. After much testing and research, the CNG buses outperformed its competition
with acceleration and fuel economy. And after calculating the fuel cost savings that result
from cheap natural gas, the choice was simple. Many things were special about this project,
and Mike Golden of MW Golden Constructors, who designed the fueling facility, took a
moment to explain. Our construction firm did the CNG fueling
station here. Okay. Which is — takes the fuel from a four-inch
gas line that comes from down in the street, brings it into the compressors, put it into
storage spheres inside. Then those gas lines run over to the Glenwood maintenance facility,
and we have an outdoor fueling station right there, where those three gentleman are standing,
and then we have indoor fueling inside the fuel bay. So at this particular facility,
RFTA can fuel diesel inside and compressed natural gas, which is abnormal in the country
to have indoor fueling of CNG. In order to do that, we had to harden the fuel bay so
it could take a deflagration in case something would go wrong. And on the north side of this
fuel bay are deflagration vents that in case of a deflagration, the vents would pop open,
let the pressure out of the building so that the building stands. All of the mechanical
systems within the Glenwood maintenance facilities were upgraded for CNG, so that if you get
a CNG leak from working on the buses, the systems will pull the gas out, open the overhead
doors, shut down nonessential electrical systems. And we also upgraded the electrical within
18 inches of the ceiling. The project is incredibly significant to the
state of Colorado. So much so that Governor Hickenlooper made an appearance at the grand
opening. Here are his remarks. — guys in just a second. But — but having
the BRT, the bus rapid transit up here, I had a meal with Secretary Ray LaHood, who’s
gonna step down as the Secretary of Transportation in the Obama Administration. And he was talking
about this project, right. That nothing makes a governor more proud than to have the Secretary
of Transportation say, you know, “You — do you know these guys, RFTA? You know, kinda
Pitkin County, Eagle County, Garfield County.” I go, “Oh yeah, I know those guys.” He goes,
“They’re doing something no one else has done.” The compressed natural gas and this fueling
station, again, there has been a revolution, all this horizontal drilling and you know,
we will get the regulations right. We will continue raising regulations to make sure
that there’s not fugitive methane escaping or that there’s not spills of diesel oil or
fracking or anything into our waters. We’ll get this right. But having inexpensive natural
gas that is abundant and creates jobs here, is cleaner, and is significantly less expensive
than gasoline, that’s not a bad thing. And when you look at the potential — I saw a
map last week of the tight shales in China. And if you believe — if you’re worried about
climate change, I’m not saying you have to be, but it’s real. I mean, it’s — climate change — is happening.
We can fight about the rate it’s changing or, you know, we can argue about how much
of mankind’s efforts are the cause, but it’s happening. Right? There’s no more debate about
that. And you could say, “Well, we can’t change it then.” That’s the other argument you hear.
Well, you can change anything. Right? If you look at the potential for natural gas to displace
coal burning electrical generation in China and do what it’s done in this country, that
is in real time the single most hopeful development that we’ve seen in the last couple decades. In this country, and people don’t talk about
it a lot, but not just in Colorado but across the country, natural gas, because it is extensive
so we know that the price isn’t gonna be spiking all over the place, but it is replacing coal
in electrical generation all across the country to the point where we have reduced carbon
emissions on a per capita basis in the United States to the same level they were in 1960.
Right? So back when Eisenhower turned over the White House to Kennedy. But we have also
— even though we never signed the Kyoto Protocol, the U.S. is halfway towards compliance with
Kyoto. And we have reduced our carbon emissions more than all the other countries that did
sign on to Kyoto, more than all of them combined. Right? Again, in no way does it diminish the
responsibility we all have to continue investing with subsidies and research into wind, into
solar. I mean natural gas is gonna be a transition,
right, over the next 10 — probably 10 or 15 years, but we can’t take our eye off the
ball. We have to continue making those investments. In the meantime, what you’re doing here is
a great model. I mean, again, cleaner, less expensive, jobs here. We’ll make sure we have
the regulator environment to make sure we protect the air and the water. It’s almost
a — in those ways it’s an opportunity that really brings so many multiple benefits to
it. And, you know, I asked some of the smaller school districts all over the state. We should
figure out how to do a refueling station like this in centralized locations so that school
districts can harvest some of that lower cost and cleaner environmental consequences that
natural gas brings. Again, what you’re doing here becomes a model and allows me, when I
go around the rest of the state to talk about what RFTA’s doing.