The Jacksonville Transportation Authority wants to build the first public compressed natural gas station in Northeast Florida.
Currently JTA spends about 10 percent of it’s budget on fuel.
JTA Chief Executive Officer Nat Ford said they can slash those costs by converting most of the bus fleet to CNG, which can cost a third less than diesel fuel.
JTA hosted a forum Monday to hear from experts in the field and the economic potential Compressed Natural Gas could bring to the First Coast.
"We believe that in the long run it will help us create a revenue stream for the JTA so we can maximize our operation, continue to provide service like we do today, and grow our service in this community as we partner with the private sector for citizens to use our fueling stations," he said.
The station is expected to be built at JTA’s Myrtle Ave. location.
Other transportation systems around the country have been converting to CNG with great success. Tulsa, Oklahoma, with a far smaller coverage area than JTA, reports fuel savings of $600,000 a month with about a quarter of its fleet using natural gas.
State Representative Lake Ray said the region could greatly benefit by reducing fuel costs.
"If we get out in front of it, we talk about bringing manufacturing to the United States when we talk about job security in the region, we talk about our port, when we talk about moving goods through the region whether that's at the port or whether it's making something or you and I individually using our cars, it gives us a huge advantage and a huge opportunity," he said.
Natural gas is also more available in the U.S. than oil and is a major factor in the quest to make the nation energy independent.
JTA’s Ford said he plans to phase in natural gas fuel on 100 busses over the next five years. He said the total cost of the switch would be $50 to $60 million.
You can follow Kevin Meerschaert on Twitter @KMeerschaertJax.