Jordan School District (JSD) owns and operates 48 Compressed Natural Gas buses, and they are continuing to invest with six more buses scheduled for deployment this fall. This is not a statement to be taken lightly, as the district has walked the walk in Utah’s alternative fuel sector for over a decade.
Since 2000, the school district has been expanding their alternative fuel vehicle fleet and retrofitting their bus yard with 76 CNG fuel dispensers. They are one of two Utah school districts utilizing CNG. However, they are the only school district actively expanding their CNG bus fleet.
How did JSD become an alternative fuel pioneer, when other school districts continue to be hesitant to follow? There are three key factors which District Transportation Director, Herb Jensen, credits with the school district’s alternative fuel success: its partnership with UCCC, its network with key players in the alternative fuel sector and the hard work and dedication of their fleet mechanics.
Since they inherited their first CNG buses twelve years ago, the district has taken full advantage of the benefits of their partnership with UCCC. It was UCCC who helped them obtain their first CNG station, second hand from Newspaper Agency Company, for just $1. In their latest project, the district has invested $950, 000 dollars to update and expand their fueling infrastructure. They’ve added a new compressor, on which “time” fueling takes 2 hours each night instead of 7, and added 28 time fill fuel dispensers. With the help of UCCC’s grants, their investment has been matched almost dollar for dollar.
Additionally, UCCC funding has made it possible for the school district to outfit 23% of its bus fleet with CNG shuttles, which cost on average $ 30,000 dollars more than a traditional diesel bus. It is estimated that with the help of grants, the district has been able to offset the cost of each new vehicle by $15,000. JSD looks forward to working with UCCC to find grant opportunities that will allow them to continue purchasing CNG buses in the future.
JSD is also an active member within the coalition, with representation on UCCC’s Operating Committee. In this position Jensen stays in touch with key players in the alternative fuel sector, which include Questar. This network has proven to be an invaluable support system for the school district.
Last, but certainly not least, the district’s the fleet mechanics have gone above and beyond the call to make alternative fuels a viable option for the fleet. They have taken the initiative to educate themselves about CNG, and their passion and determination has made all the difference.
As with the implementation of any new technology or system, JSD had obstacles to overcome when they started using CNG buses. In the beginning, older models struggled up steep grades and canyons. Additionally, fueling was difficult when the infrastructure was less developed.
Today, however, “it’s hard to distinguish the CNG buses from the others” says Jensen, “We could take them anywhere in the state. We could take them all the way to St. George and there would even been the infrastructure to do it.” The commitment of the district and its mechanics during the initial learning curve has given them invaluable knowledge – which they eagerly share.
Other districts and municipalities who have seen the potential of CNG are frequent visitors. “We love to share the secret and let others get in on it too,” says Jensen. Wasatch, Washington, and Pinedale are among the Utah school districts have paid recent visits to the CNG fleet. JSD has also entertained officials from schools as far away as Arizona and Pennsylvania.
The main appeal for these fleets: diesel prices are between $3-4 /gallon, and rising, whereas CNG is priced at about $1/gallon and is stable. Couple this with a comparable mpg rate in day-to-day operations to diesel fuel buses, and it only takes a few years before these buses pay for themselves.
“Any good businessman knows that value of an investment rests on how long it takes to recapture capitol,” says Jensen, “But aside from this, it’s just the right thing to do, to be good stewards of the environment.”
UCCC is proud to share our first Stakeholder Success Story! We have been conducting brief interviews with stakeholders to help archive the successes of UCCC partners. These articles will be used to showcase, encourage, and educate others about alternative fuel use in various industries and organizations throughout Utah. Please share your successes, contact UCCC Intern Jessica Kagie for an interview. 801-298-0231 or UCCC@utahcleancities.org