The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners has approved a contract to purchase 20 transit buses fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG) to replace similar vehicles in use at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The $7.6 million contract was awarded to North American Bus Industries of Ontario.

In addition to providing economical and efficient transportation for the traveling public at LAX, the new buses will be designed to better meet the needs of disabled persons, airport officials said.

The buses are also designed to address a finding by the California state attorney general in 2005 that problems in operating the wheelchair lifts on LAX’s existing fleet of high-floor buses made it difficult for disabled persons to easily board and disembark, airport officials said.

Airport officials have agreed to accelerate replacing all of the LAX shuttle buses over the next 36 months.

LAX has a fleet of 61 transit buses that are used for the LAX shuttle program. The buses are operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week to transport the traveling public and airport employees from outlying airport parking Lots B, C, D and E to the passenger terminal area.

The buses also operate between terminals, as well as to and from the Metro Green Line LAX/Aviation Station.

The fleet averages 1,553 trips during a typical 24-hour period. The new buses also will be utilized on a continuous basis and have a useful life of approximately 12 years.

Since the board’s adoption in 1999 of the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA, the Los Angeles Agency that operates the city’s airports) Alternative-Fuel Vehicle Program, airport officials believe that alternative-fuel vehicles are an important element to reducing air emissions in the region.

Efforts are continuing to convert all of the vehicle fleets at the City of Los Angeles’s four airports to alternative-fuel use. There are presently more than 600 alternative-fuel vehicles, or more than 60 percent of LAWA’s fleet, powered by alternative fuels.