THE ROAD AHEAD BLOG

Kansas City Region Leads Way to Cleaner Transportation Era

By Andrew Littlefair

Along with an American League Championship won by our beloved Royals, Kansas City has delivered yet another victory for the citizens of the region; this time in the category of green transportation.

As chairman of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) Board of Commissioners, I am especially proud of the City of Kansas City for earning the top honor at the North American Green Fleet Awards last month. Their commitment to sustainability and their use of alternative fuel vehicles such as garbage trucks, dump trucks, vans and sedans fueled by natural gas, has gained national recognition and continues to be a positive influence on the citizens who walk and drive the streets of the Kansas City area.

The city’s growing fleet of alternative fuel vehicles operates primarily on clean, American natural gas, which means cleaner air for our community. Natural gas continues to be proven as a cleaner alternative to traditional gasoline and diesel, while significantly improving local air quality and reducing greenhouse gases.

Knowing my children and other students of Lee’s Summit are directly benefitting from cleaner fuel makes the math not only simple, but compelling for other districts.

But the benefits don’t stop there: cost savings really add up quickly given the number of miles covered by the area’s buses and fleets. Lower-cost CNG means less customer and taxpayer dollars are being spent on fuel. When you consider that CNG can be as much as $1.00 less per gallon than diesel, the numbers speak for themselves.

The KCATA conducted extensive research about which alternative fuel would be the best fit for the organization, but in the end the choice was evident. By transitioning to CNG from diesel, KCATA is expected to save roughly $500,000 in the fleet’s first year of operation and up to $4 million each year once the transition is complete.

That’s a simple subtraction that even my sons, both students in Lee’s Summit (Mo.) R-7 School District, can understand. And apparently the district has done the math because they are in the midst of the largest school district transition to CNG in the nation.

Lee’s Summit Superintendent Dr. David McGehee says switching the district’s fleet to CNG “… will cut transportation costs by about $10.5 million, with a portion of the fuel savings paying for new technology infrastructure in our school system.”

Knowing my children and other students of Lee’s Summit are directly benefitting from cleaner fuel makes the math not only simple, but compelling for other districts.

Lees_Summit CNG Bus
Two Lee’s Summit School District CNG Buses

Like most success stories, our organization’s move to natural gas didn’t happen overnight – and it didn’t happen in vacuum. We are grateful to our teammates and business partners who, two years ago, helped KCATA put in place a policy to acquire only CNG buses going forward. And earlier this year, KCATA opened its first natural gas station to fuel its growing fleet of clean-air buses.

KCATA’s transition to alternative fuels is complemented well by Kansas City’s government fleet, which boasts 271 CNG vehicles, 46 all-electric vehicles, 12 hybrids and several other alternative-fueled vehicles, in addition to those using traditional diesel and gasoline.

Collectively, we’re literally starting to fire on all cylinders to bring cleaner and American energy to Kansas City. We’ve made great progress towards reducing our community’s carbon footprint and we’re setting a standard for others to follow. So it’s no wonder that the 2014 North American Natural Gas Vehicle Conference & Expo is being held in Kansas City this week.

We welcome the conference and look forward to continuing to partner with organizations like its sponsor, NGVAmerica, in its mission to develop a robust sustainable NGV market through advocacy, education and information exchange.

The full potential of what natural gas as a vehicle fuel can do for this region, and our nation is far from fully realized – but I’m happy to say we’re on the right track. Include the fact that more manufacturers are placing CNG vehicles on America’s roads, and the potential continues to grow.

We are proud of our successes, but we are firmly focused on our goal for a cleaner future for the Kansas City region.

Robbie Makinen is the Chairman of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) Board of Commissioners and Director of Government Relations for Jackson County, Mo. The 2014 North American Natural Gas Vehicle Conference & Expo is being held at the Kansas City Convention Center Nov. 11–14.