Caring for the Environment – COTA

Caring for the Environment

COTA is Going Green!

COTA believes public transportation is one of the original “Green” industries and makes every effort to protect the environment. In 2013, COTA made the commitment to move our entire fleet to compressed natural gas within 12 years.

COTA also contributes to a healthy environment long term by:

  • Reviewing and making changes in operational practices and purchases
  • Incorporating sustainable design in construction projects

Our Green Fleet: Environmentally Friendly Transit

Our transition from hybrid coaches and ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel to compressed natural gas (CNG) continues.

Construction of a CNG fueling station at COTA’s McKinley Avenue Operations and Maintenance facility was completed in 2013 and COTA began operating 30 new CNG buses on May 6, 2013.


In 2011, COTA studied the benefits of switching to CNG to power its fixed-route bus fleet. The study compared costs of CNG versus diesel fuel, operational and maintenance expenses, market forces and infrastructure costs.

As part of COTA’s robust “Going Green” program, COTA evaluated environmental impacts, particularly emissions. As a result, COTA decided to begin the transition to CNG powered buses.

The McKinley Operations facility renovations included CNG-compatible modifications as part of a $76 million renovation.


The 12-year transition to a complete CNG fleet is underway. Diesel-powered coaches will be retired and replaced, and additional CNG coaches will be purchased. This will require remodeling for CNG upgrades at several COTA facilities along with a second CNG fueling station at the Fields Avenue Facility.

What is compressed natural gas (CNG)?

  • CNG is made by compressing natural gas to a fraction of its volume. This well-established technology captures a large share of the transportation market.
  • CNG, used in gasoline internal-combustion vehicles converted to alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs), is delivered by high-pressure (up to 3,600 psi) compression and dispensing systems. CNG is stored in high-pressure cylinders on board buses.

Environmental advantages of CNG

  • CNG buses meet EPA standards with little additional cost. CNG vehicles produce greenhouse gas emissions that are roughly 15-30 percent lower than gasoline or diesel-fueled buses.
  • CNG buses produce lower tailpipe emissions and greenhouse gases because methane is less carbon-rich than petroleum. Unlike gasoline, natural gas is non-toxic, non-corrosive, and non-carcinogenic.
  • CNG exhaust emissions are much lower than gasoline and diesel vehicles. Evaporation, fueling and use emissions account for most of the environmental problems in gasoline powered buses while CNG-powered buses produce few of these emissions during fueling and use.
  • By replacing older gas-powered buses with CNG-powered buses, these reductions in exhaust emissions are possible:
    • Carbon monoxide (CO) by 70%–90%
    • Non-methane organic gas (NMOG) by 50%–75%
    • Nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 75%–95%
    • Carbon dioxide (CO2) by 20%–30%
  •  According to the Energy Information Administration, nearly all of the natural gas used in America comes primarily from domestic sources. Natural gas accounts for approximately one quarter of the energy used in the US.
  • Compared with gasoline and diesel vehicles, natural gas vehicles produce significantly lower carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, non-methane hydrocarbon, particulate matter, and other toxic emissions, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, because CNG fuel systems are completely sealed, CNG vehicles produce no evaporation emissions.
  • CNG is safe. Natural gas vehicles meet the same safety standards as gasoline and diesel vehicles as set by the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) NFPA 52 Vehicular Fuel System Code.
  • Natural gas has a narrow flammability range and, because it is lighter than air, dissipates quickly if released. NGV fuel tanks are strong and extremely puncture resistant.

Economic advantages of CNG

In Ohio, CNG fuel generally costs anywhere from 20-60% less than petroleum fuels which will result in substantial savings to COTA over the long term.

Cota Cota
Cost of Diesel Fuel YTD in 2013 $3.00/gal (net of hedge positions)
Cost of CNG YTD in 2013 $0.30/gal (includes $.50/gal Federal Tax credit)
Savings $2.70

Our Bike Bus Program: Investing in Multi-Modal Transit

Cars are major polluters that contribute to environmental problems. Most car trips are short–a mile or less– causing much pollution damage.

Biking to work is good for the environment and provides the health benefits of exercise, stress reduction and cleaner air quality.

COTA supports bike commuting with our Bike & Bus program which allows the cyclist to combine modes of transit for added flexibility.

Recycling Inside and Out: Recycling and Reducing Waste

COTA collects rainwater to wash our buses every night. The water that goes down the drain is filtered and reused to clean the next bus.

Water collected in a retention pond outside COTA’s mobility station,flows into two underground 15,000 gallon tanks before it’s reused to wash buses or in COTA facility toilets.

The Fields Avenue maintenance facility, a LEED-certified building, has eco-friendly siding and energy efficient windows. Some of our shelters use solar light and COTA strives to use environmentally friendly design in our construction sites.

After bus oil changes, most oil is sold to a distributor who filters the oil for future use. Any leftover oil can be used to heat COTA’s mobility station. Recycling fuel and water saves COTA thousands of dollars and makes sense environmentally. Whenever possible COTA purchases recycled products, Energy Star appliances, occupational sensors and, water-based paint and cleaners. All landscaping is conservation-based.

COTA recycles paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminum, fluorescent lights, ink cartridges, steel scrap, aluminum body panels, oil, antifreeze and transmission fluids, steel drums, aerosol cans, yard waste, wooden pallets, cell phones, computers, batteries and tires. We also are committed to purchasing recycled products, using Energy Star appliances, occupational sensors, conservational landscaping, water-based paint and cleaners.

Our Green Building Investments: Renovating for a Green Future

Green building guidelines help everyone by lowering water and energy consumption, improving air quality, and using resources wisely.

COTA is Going Green

COTA participates in these Green Initiatives:

  • Mayor Coleman’s Green Team
  • SWACO’s Roundtable
  • Clean Fuels Ohio
  • MORPC’s Energy and Environment, Energy and Air Quality, and Sustainable Growth Committees

LEED certification is another way COTA invests in the health and sustainability of central Ohio. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), nationally recognized for stringent design guidelines by the U.S. Green Building Council, encourages the development of more environmentally friendly buildings. LEED certifies new construction, existing buildings, commercial interiors, homes and neighborhood developments.

There are 148 LEED Certified Buildings in Ohio. Fifty one of those buildings are Gold Certified and Franklin County boasts just seven LEED Gold Certified Buildings. COTA’s Fields Avenue Facility is one of the seven.

Other COTA LEED Certified Buildings include:

  • Mobility Services facility construction (LEED Silver Certification)
  • McKinley Operations facility renovations (Pursuing LEED Certification)
  • William J. Lhota Building renovations (LEED Silver Certification)
  • Essex facility renovations (Pursuing LEED Certification)
  • Fields Operations facility renovations (LEED Gold Certification)

COTA is Going Green

COTA believes actions we take today can protect the environment for generations to come.

If you have suggestions for other ways COTA can go green, please contact us.