Two South Dakota transit agencies invest in propane paratransit buses

Two transit agencies in South Dakota, People's Transit in Huron and Prairie Hills Transit in Spearfish, are investing in safer, more environmentally friendly and more fuel-efficient buses that run on propane gas.

“With these new propane buses and the first propane fueling station in the state, Prairie Hills Transit is leading the way in public transportation,” said Barbara Cline, executive director of Prairie Hills Transit. “We have conducted extensive research and believe that using propane is an excellent way to reduce emissions.”

Prairie Hills Transit will operate six propane buses, representing 10 percent of its fleet.

“The new propane buses will have a positive environmental impact as they will emit fewer pollutants, especially when compared to our gasoline and diesel buses,” said Gayle Kludt, executive director of People's Transit. People's Transit will operate six propane buses, converting 80 percent of its inner-city fleet to propane this calendar year.

Both companies' buses are equipped with modern propane engines designed and built by ROUSH CleanTech. The ROUSH CleanTech Ford E-450 cutaway chassis is the only propane vehicle to have passed the Federal Transit Administration's New Model Bus Testing Program, which allows transit fleet operators to receive federal funding.

Both People's Transit and Prairie Hills Transit have accessed funding sources to support the purchase of the new buses.

“The buses are funded primarily by federal funds under Section 5339,” Kludt said.

The propane buses also reduce daily operating costs because there are fewer fuel and maintenance costs. On average, propane is about 40 percent cheaper than gasoline and 50 percent cheaper than diesel.

“While this is certainly a big shift, we have received incredible support from the South Dakota Department of Transportation, ROUSH CleanTech and our bus dealer Davey Coach. We are truly partnering with the best in the industry on this new initiative,” said Cline.

All new propane buses are certified to 0.02 grams per brake horsepower hour and emit 90 percent less nitrogen oxide emissions than the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) most stringent standard. The EPA and California Air Resources Board measure NOx, particulate matter, nonmethane hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, formaldehyde and nitrous oxide. Propane vehicles equipped with a ROUSH CleanTech fuel system have an average of 64 percent lower levels in all eight measures measured.

Anna Harden

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