Mayor Chris Beutler today said two recent grants totaling $3.425 million will help StarTran increase the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) in its fleet. The funds will go toward site acquisition, research and design for a CNG fueling station and eventually a bus maintenance and storage facility. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded the City $2.6 million, and the Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET) awarded the City $825,000 for the project.
"StarTran has a long history of using alternative fuels in its fleet, and this project is another step forward," Mayor Beutler said. "Using compressed natural gas is saving us about 38 cents per gallon compared to diesel this summer. Air emissions are reduced about 20 percent. And it's reliable fuel source that we can produce from our own wastewater operations. I want thank NET and the FTA for investing in this important project."
Last year, the City announced it will process biogas from its wastewater treatment facility into vehicle fuel that can be sold locally or on the national market
StarTran sees about 2.5 million customer trips each year, and its fleet has grown to 80 vehicles. The transit service has outgrown its location at 710 "J" Street and is evaluating a site on West "O" Street. The full project is projected to cost about $40 million, and StarTran is pursuing additional grant funding.
StarTran currently has 13 CNG-fueled buses on the streets, and 11 CNG handivans will be in operation soon. In August, StarTran expects to receive 11 more CNG buses and two CNG trolleys, bringing the total CNG fleet to 37.
Increased use of CNG is one of the action strategies in the Lincoln Environmental Action Plan, which calls for reducing non-renewable fuel usage in City fleet operations by at least 50 percent by 2030. A previous study projected $1.3 million in savings over 15 years by converting buses to CNG fuel.
"Riders turn to StarTran for several reasons, including the environmental benefits of public transportation, and CNG helps us deliver on that promise," said Transit Manager Mike Davis. "We appreciate the investment by NET and FTA in Lincoln's air quality and in our agency's ability to grow and meet evolving rider needs."
The FTA grant came from its Buses and Bus Facilities Infrastructure Investment Program. The FTA received applications for 453 projects, and Lincoln's was one of 139 selected. More information on the FTA is available at transit.dot.gov.
The Nebraska Environmental Trust was established in 1992 and is funded by a percentage of proceeds from the Nebraska Lottery. More information is available at environmentaltrust.org.
More information on StarTran is available at startran.lincoln.ne.gov.