Lafayette's fleet of natural gas-powered buses is growing faster than expected. Gwinnett County, Ga.has donated 12 buses that were phased out in favor of larger models.


The buses are now receiving routine maintenance and inspections. City-Parish Transit and Parking Manager Mike Mitchell says they should be in service by spring.

City-Parish Director of Traffic and Transportation Tony Tramel says Lafayette bought 5 new natural gas powered buses in 2011, and five more are on order.

The full conversion of the bus fleet to natural gas is expected to be completed by 2020.

Tramel said another key point for the effort is that the local oil and gas service industry has been instrumental in the discovery and production of what has been a growing supply of natural gas in Louisiana.

He said,"Why shouldn't we be the model for the state?"

Mitchell says the use of natural-gas buses should cut air pollution, and reduce fuel expenses.

A diesel bus in Lafayette's transit service uses an average of $4,300 worth of diesel fuel a month. The monthly fuel cost for a natural gas-powered bus ranges from $1,400 to $1,700. Mitchell said, "We believe we will see a huge benefit in transportation costs."

City-parish government has also been converting other fleet vehicles from gasoline to natural gas. Tramel says 45 vehicles have been converted and another 20 will be converted by year's end.