City looking at different fuel for buses

Rochester Public Transportation

ROCHESTER, Minn. — If you are somebody who uses public transportation, you probably do not think too much about what type of fuel is getting you from point a to point b, but a few officials in southern Minnesota who run public transportation do think about it.

Right now Rochester city buses use their own station to fill up with diesel fuel, but they are thinking about another option, that being natural gas.

“I think the biggest draw to that right now is the price difference. There is some emission improvements too with CNG, but right now we’re talking about two dollars a gallon,” said Rochester Transit and Parking Manager Tony Knauer.

Since they use about 260,000 gallons of diesel a year, and likely going up with more buses in the coming years, it only makes sense.

“The payback on that is about three and a half years, so to get all of that back and running that bus on the street it’s a pretty quick payback. We operate those buses on the street for a minimum of 12, most likely 15 plus years,” Knauer said.

That is what they proposed to the city council last month. While no decision was made, it is something the council is interested in.

“This just presents an opportunity in terms of cost management and financial savings for our fleet of vehicles, not to mention some of the environmental considerations, so we really do want to keep an open mind,” said Rochester City Council President Randy Staver.

Before they come to a conclusion, city leaders have a couple of questions to be answered.

“Just to help verify that the information that we’re getting is accurate in terms of the fuel savings and economic benefit. The other key question we’re considering is whether we construct our own fueling facility. Would we do that versus perhaps leveraging or partnering with a private industry?” Staver said.

Constructing a fuel station would cost an additional $3 million dollars or more. Knauer said that may be the more cost-effective option.

“There’s some logistical things about that, the location and the convenience and then also, they have to have a return on their investment too, which we understand, so the savings, somebody’s going to have to pay for that station,” Knauer said.

He said they already have about $1 million dollars for the fuel station from the Federal Transportation Administration.

They will be presenting more info to the council next month. Knauer hopes to have a final decision on the fuel plan by the end of June. That is when they need to order new buses no matter what.

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