ST. CLOUD -- It's been nearly three years since Metro Bus began converting its fleet over to compressed natural gas powered buses. The move to the cleaner burning fuel is also paying off in dollars and cents.

Metro Bus Maintenance Director Ed Yorek says in the 27 months since they started running the CNG buses, they have seen a total fuel cost savings of $417,000.  The CNG buses get about the same mileage as the diesel buses, allowing for a savings of a dollar or more per-gallon compared with diesel.

Yorek says they are also seeing some savings on maintenance costs.  He says there have been no problems with the engines, injection systems or other mechanical systems.  Yorek says there is also a small savings on oil changes because they are able to run the bus for an additional 4,000-5,000 miles before changing the oil.

Metro Bus currently has 23 large fixed-route buses running on compressed natural gas and six smaller Dial-A-Ride buses. Yorek says they are replacing all retiring buses with CNG models.

Metro Bus built its own CNG fueling station, which Yorek says is open to the public at a current price of $1.99 per-gallon equivalent.