May 8, 2020. A sixth bus that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG) could join Hazleton Public Transit’s (Pennsylvania) fleet by early next year, the city’s director of public services said.

City council recently voted to buy a 2020 Gillig bus with $513,502 in state funds for Hazleton Public Transit.

The 29-foot low floor bus is a 2020 model that will have a plexiglass shield that separates the driver from passengers, a feature that has become somewhat of a standard as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Director of Public Services Ralph Sharp said.

Similar shields have been installed on existing buses and will serve as an added layer of safety as drivers and passengers have been wearing masks, Sharp said.

When delivered in either February or March of 2021, the bus will be the sixth in public transit’s fleet to operate on CNG, Sharp said. Natural gas has been a more economical and cleaner alternative to diesel, Sharp has said.

Approval ensures the purchase falls within public transit’s 2019-2020 fiscal year.

The number of CNG buses in the local fleet could increase further next week, when Sharp will ask city council to approve buying a seventh CNG bus. That vehicle will be a 2021 Gillig and cost the same amount as the 2020 model, he said.

Public transit will use state funds from its 2020-21 fiscal year for purchasing the seventh bus. Officials expect delivery of that vehicle in November 2021, he estimates.