Developing a Natural Gas-Powered Bus Rapid Transit Service: A Case Study

George Mitchell

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA) and its VelociRFTA Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) program are unique in many ways. For example, VelociRFTA was the first rural BRT system in the United States and the operational environment of the VelociRFTA BRT is one of the most severe in the country, with extreme winter temperatures and altitudes close to 8,000 feet. RFTA viewed high altitude operation as the most challenging characteristic when it began considering the use of natural gas. RFTA is the second-largest public transit system in Colorado behind Denver's Regional Transportation District (RTD), and it is one of the largest rural public transit systems in the country. In 2013, RFTA accepted delivery of 22 new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses that went into service after completion of maintenance and refueling facilities earlier that year. This paper examines the lessons learned from RFTA's experience of investigating--and ultimately choosing--CNG for their new BRT program and focuses on the unique environment of RFTA's BRT application; the decision process to include CNG fueling in the project; unforeseen difficulties encountered in the operation of CNG buses; public perception; cost comparison to competing fuels; and considerations for indoor fueling facilities and project funding.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages28
StatePublished - 2015

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5400-64756


  • alternative fuels
  • bus rapid transit (BRT)
  • buses
  • CNG
  • compressed natural gas (CNG)
  • RFTA
  • Roaring Fork Transit Authority


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