RFTA buses will not display EnCana logo | PostIndependent.com

RFTA buses will not display EnCana logo

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority has decided against displaying the logo of a major energy producer on the exterior of 22 buses that run on compressed natural gas.

RFTA staff is “very enthusiastic” about the performance of buses that run on the alternative energy and the potential for expanding its use, said CEO Dan Blankenship. Nevertheless, they have decided not to approach the board of directors with a proposal to display EnCana Corp.’s logo, he said.

“I think they might be hesitant to do that,” Blankenship said.

In prior decisions, the board has refused to allow advertising on the outside of buses. Advertising is allowed on special display space of the interiors.

The situation with EnCana was different. RFTA received a $365,488 EnCana Community Investment Grant in January to help convert four new buses to systems that burn compressed natural gas and construction of a fuel filling station in Glenwood Springs. Another 18 new buses ordered for RFTA’s Bus Rapid Transit expansion project will run on compressed natural gas.

EnCana’s grant covered about 2 percent of the project’s overall cost, according to Blankenship. However, the timing of the grant was critical to the success of the project.

The receipt of the EnCana grant early in the process “provided much needed momentum that undoubtedly helped RFTA garner support” from the Colorado Energy Office and Federal Transit Administration, Blankenship wrote in a memo to the directors. The state and federal agencies helped RFTA secure funds for the multi-million project.

In return for the grant, RFTA staff pledged to issue a press release about the grant as well as a one-page statement about the advantages of compressed natural gas over standard diesel fuel. Pending approval by the board, RFTA also was supposed to place a “Powered By Natural Gas” decal and an EnCana logo on the exterior of the four new buses already in the fleet and 18 on order.

“EnCana will receive desirable exposure from this grant because RFTA BRT buses will be seen in every town throughout the valley, all day long,” said the agreement between RFTA and EnCana.

RFTA’s board of directors approved the “Power By Natural Gas” decal for the exterior of buses last winter. However, the staff never popped the question to the board about the EnCana logo.

Doug Hock, director of community and public relations with EnCana, said Blankenship and another RFTA staff member weren’t certain that the board would approve the logo on buses. So, instead of pushing the issue, they mutually agreed on alternative methods of providing information to the public about the benefits of natural gas, according to Hock.

Blankenship’s memo to the RFTA board outlined three alternative steps: a tour of a gas well drilling rig for interested RFTA board members; “a future presentation before the board about natural gas use and production and to address any concerns the board might have in that regard”; and placement of brochures and other materials on buses about the benefits of natural gas.

The proposal goes before RFTA’s board Thursday at its monthly meeting.

EnCana is a major gas producer in North America and it is active in western Garfield County. It is not RFTA’s gas supplier. SourceGas provides the fuel.

RFTA officials are pleased with the performance of four buses that run on compressed natural gas that are already in the fleet. “So far, they’ve worked really well, very reliably,” Blankenship said.

The alternative fuel buses are experiencing a 10 to 15 percent increase in fuel efficiency compared to the buses that run on diesel, Blankenship said. RFTA pays about $3.40 per gallon for diesel fuel and about $2.93 for an equivalent amount of compressed natural gas. In addition, RFTA is applying for a federal fuel tax credit of 47 cents per gallon, so that would increase RFTA’s fuel savings costs.

RFTA has slightly more than 90 buses in its fleet. When the expanded system debuts in the fall, 22 buses will operate on compressed natural gas or nearly one-quarter of the fleet. Blankenship said RFTA would also consider whether to convert a handful of other buses to compressed natural gas later this year when their motors must be rebuilt. The conversion will nearly double the cost of rebuilding the engines, but the fuel savings would cover that cost in three years, according to Blankenship.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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