VIA Metropolitan Transit officially introduced the first of more than 400 new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses on Thursday, signaling a historic conversion of the agency’s fleet and VIA’s salute to Earth Day.


The change to cleaner, “greener” buses is part of VIA’s multi-year plan to significantly reduce vehicle emissions, decrease operating costs and allow VIA to carry out planned service enhancements. Once complete, the transformed fleet will bring a 97% reduction of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and will further the agency’s role as an industry leader in environmental stewardship.


“Today, we celebrate the move toward a new, environmentally sustainable era in public transportation for our region,” said VIA President and CEO Jeffrey C. Arndt. “VIA’s conversion to an all-CNG fleet is where the rubber meets the road for VIA’s commitment to drive innovation and [to] connect our region with a cleaner, ‘greener’ future.”


The move affirms VIA’s focus on environmentally sustainable mobility in the region. A new, 10-pump CNG fueling station will be the largest in the nation once it’s completely operational later this year.


The new buses, manufactured by Nova Bus, are 40 feet by 102 inches, with a 67-passenger capacity. The more modern, much quieter models feature a complete suite of technological systems including GPS locating, cameras for enhanced safety, automatic passenger counters to streamline boarding and a public information system for real-time passenger stop alerts.


They will replace aging buses in the current fleet, which are between 12 and 15 years old. VIA will replace more than half of its existing fleet by late summer 2017, with the ongoing fleet conversion expected to be complete by 2020. The annual fuel cost savings once the new fleet is completed is estimated at $8.5 million.