Alternative Fuels

North Kansas City Makes Big Move to CNG School Buses

Thomas McMahon
Posted on November 6, 2016
Lon Waterman, director of transportation for North Kansas City Schools, says that the move to alternative-fuel buses ties in with the district’s overall environmental goals. In the background, new Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner C2 CNG buses are refueled at a time-fill station.
Lon Waterman, director of transportation for North Kansas City Schools, says that the move to alternative-fuel buses ties in with the district’s overall environmental goals. In the background, new Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner C2 CNG buses are refueled at a time-fill station.

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — North Kansas City Schools has taken a giant leap into alternative fuels.

The district recently replaced the majority of its diesel fleet with 124 new CNG school buses. With 36 remaining diesels, for a total of 160 buses, the CNG models make up more than three-fourths of the fleet.

Lon Waterman, director of transportation for North Kansas City Schools, says that the move to an alternative fuel ties in with the district’s overall environmental goals.

“The district has looked at green initiatives in other departments, including the building of schools,” Waterman says. “For the board, they felt that transportation was the natural next step.”

With growing student enrollment, North Kansas City Schools needed to add more buses, and the existing buses were in need of replacement.

“Our fleet was aged beyond industry standards,” Waterman says. “The cost of maintenance and repairs was more than the fleet was worth.”

The district spent about two years analyzing the pros and cons of the various fuel options for school buses, ultimately settling on CNG for its local availability, its clean-burning properties, and its relatively stable price.

“We wanted to make sure we could control our costs and project them reasonably,” Waterman says.

David Curry, lead trainer at North Kansas City Schools, refuels one of the district’s 124 new CNG buses at a fast-fill station.
David Curry, lead trainer at North Kansas City Schools, refuels one of the district’s 124 new CNG buses at a fast-fill station.
Along with acquiring a new fleet of CNG buses, North Kansas City Schools installed fast-fill and time-fill fueling infrastructure. Most of the buses use the fast-fill station, which is akin to filling up at a diesel pump. About 50 of the buses use the time-fill station, which takes about four to five hours.

While some school districts tap into grant funding to offset the higher purchase prices of alt-fuel buses, North Kansas City Schools took a different route. The district financed its CNG bus purchase with a combination of three-year leases and long-term lease purchases.

“With the short-term leases, every three years we’re trading these buses in, which keeps our fleet costs down,” Waterman says. “It created a replacement cycle within our fleet that was never there before.”

This profile of North Kansas City Schools appeared in a feature about fuel choices in the November issue of School Bus Fleet. Read the full feature here.

Related Topics: alternative fuels, CNG, Missouri, Thomas Built Buses

Thomas McMahon Executive Editor
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