TAPS Public Transit will soon be replacing more of its aging fleet than initially anticipated, officials with the transit agency said Monday. The news came Monday as TAPS staff updated the board of directors on its procurement process for the new vehicles.
In its February meeting, officials with the transit agency announced it had received a $700,000 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Grant, more commonly known as a TIGER Grant, for the replacement of a portion of its bus fleet. Initially, officials expected to be able to purchase nine vehicles, however favorable bids allowed the agency to purchase one additional vehicle.
“We proceeded with the procurement process under the state contract,” Transdev General Manager Josh Walker said. “Initially we had budgeted more per unit, so with this we are able to add another vehicle to help modernize our fleet.”
The move to replace its fleet comes as more than a dozen buses were at or beyond their useful road life of three years or 150,000 miles. Of these buses, many have seen at least 130 percent of their useful life, if not longer. In one case, Walker said TAPS has one bus in operation that has reached 225,000 road miles.
Many of the buses being considered for retirement date back to 2013 and 2015, Walker said previously.
For the replacements, Walker said TAPS will purchase vehicles manufactured by Glaval, who previously made other buses in the TAPS fleet. Walker said this familiarity did not play as much of a role in the decision to purchase the vehicles as the market and offers did.
The new buses will be smaller and more agile than many of the buses in the current fleet, Walker said. Of the 10 vehicles, eight will be able to seat 10 passengers along with room for two wheelchairs. The remaining two will be about the same size as the existing fleet and be able to seat 18 passengers and house two wheelchairs.
Walker said these new buses will be a better match for the rural environments that many of the TAPS buses are used in and will not see the same wear and tear that the previous cycle saw. Additionally, Walker estimated that the buses will be about 50 percent more fuel efficient than their predecessors.
With the newer buses, Walker said they are less expensive than the last line of buses but will also include several safety features that were not on the previous buses, including special antimicrobial treatments for the seats and lifts that are designed for greater weights.
Initially, TAPS officials budgeted about $77,000 for each bus, but Walker said after the bidding was done, TAPS will pay closer to $70,000 for each vehicle.
TAPS Board Vice Chairman Bill Magers asked how often TAPS and other transit agencies typically get funding for new vehicles. Walker said the Federal Transportation Administration usually includes enough funding to replace one vehicle a year in the urban portion of its funding, with enough funding in the rural portion to replace a vehicle every other year.
With the new buses on the way, Walker said he expects that TAPS will be able to retire about 15 buses in the coming months. The new buses are expected to arrive and be in service on or before Oct. 1, Walker said.