Why Grand Rapids' commuters and politicians are breathing easier thanks to CNG

The Grand Rapids public transit system (the "Rapid") provides a variety of public transportation services for the Grand Rapids metro area and beyond. It is organized by the Interurban Transit Partnership and operates under the Michigan Public Transportation Authority Act 196 of 1986.

The Grand Rapids Transit Agency was looking to reduce energy consumption, diminish its reliance on foreign oil, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower the cost of operations. It was able to accomplish all of this by transitioning to Gillig buses outfitted with Agility's compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel systems.

Switching from diesel to CNG, the Rapid has generated a combined total cost savings of $4.5 million. The Rapid's new CNG buses reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1 million metric tons when compared to the diesel used previously. Use of Agility's CNG fuel systems has given the Rapid access to an American-made fuel source with an abundant 100-year supply, significantly decreasing dependence on foreign oil.

A rapid move toward CNG

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Rapid transit system is on its way to becoming Michigan's largest system of CNG-powered buses. In 2019, the Rapid was running 37 alternative-fuel buses, and by 2021 it expects to more than double that number to 92 CNG buses out of its total fleet of 150. By 2028, it will be running 100% CNG. The Rapid, always eager to get where it's going quickly, is motivated by the environmental benefits, cost savings, and decreased dependence on foreign oil that CNG provides.


million cost savings


million metric tons of reduced GHG emissions

“Using compressed natural gas to fuel our buses is a four-way winner -- it's clean, affordable, abundant and American-made"

Ruth Kelly


Second Ward City Commissioner, Grand Rapids

Cleaner & Greener

Because CNG buses produce up to 20-30% fewer emissions than diesel-powered buses, switching from diesel to CNG will reduce the Rapid's greenhouse gas emissions by more than one million metric tons. "We can use these new vehicles to continue our efforts to improve the quality of the air we breathe and the environment we enjoy," said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, showing off the city's new buses. Since CNG is nontoxic, it poses no threat to land or water if a spill occurs. This is something everyone in Grand Rapids is happy about. As Mayor Bliss further attested: "This investment demonstrates an important collaboration of innovative partners within our community, using the most sustainable, clean, cost-effective and safe products on the market for transportation solutions."

Better for the bottom line

Not only is CNG is good for the environment, but it is also good for the municipality: switching from diesel to CNG, the Rapid has generated a combined total cost savings of $4.5 million. "This plan also allows us to be even more efficient stewards of taxpayer dollars by reducing the cost of operations moving forward," says Mayor Bliss. In 2015, the Rapid Board of Directors approved a $13 million contract to buy 28 40-foot-long CNG buses with Agility CNG fuel systems. It was indeed an investment, but less of a financial one than it seems. It was funded entirely by federal and state grants: a $10.4 million Federal Transit Administration grant that was "proudly supported by both Michigan Sens. Stabenow and Peters," as well as a $2.6 million grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation. It's easy to see that CNG is good business and that the Rapid is investing, most of all, in its future. The Board also allotted $5.3 million to a contract with Walker, Michigan-based Triangle Inc. to build a fueling facility in Grand Rapids, which provides not only clean, local fuel, but also local jobs.

Powered by the USA

The Rapid's new Gillig low-floor model buses are made in America at the Gillig factory in Livermore, California. Thanks to Agility's CNG fuel systems, the buses rely on a fuel source of which the United States has an abundant 100-year domestic supply. As the City of Walker's Mayor, Mark Huizenga, has pointed out, CNG also reduces the Rapid's energy consumption in general. By turning to American-made CNG fuel, the Rapid sharply diminishes its reliance on foreign oil. Between that and cleaner air, in the coming years, everyone in Michigan will be breathing easier.