Grant could pay for 4 buses

$2M from Transportation: Quieter, less stinky hybrids might replace older models

October 11, 2010 

Grant could pay for 4 buses

Intercity Transit is getting a piece of $776 million that will go out to transit systems in 45 states, according to the U.S. DOT. The "State of Good Repair" grant is intended to help agencies replace aging buses and facilities.

BY STEVE BLOOM — The Olympian

Intercity Transit will get a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation that could be used to buy up to four new hybrid buses.

The agency is getting a piece of $776 million that will go out to transit systems in 45 states, according to the U.S. DOT. The “State of Good Repair” grant is intended to help agencies replace aging buses and facilities.

The department estimates that more than 40 percent of the country’s buses are in poor to marginal condition.

Intercity Transit will replace four of the oldest buses in its fleet, standard diesel buses that date to the late 1990s, spokeswoman Meg Kester said. She said such buses are recommended to be replaced every 12 years.

“If we did not have federal funding … we would have to replace those buses out of local funds,” she said. “This is very good news.”

The grant is a matching grant, meaning that the federal government pays 83 percent of expenses and Intercity Transit picks up the rest, said Bob Holman, grants program administrator for Intercity Transit.

Kester said that, combined with another earmark the transit agency has received, the agency could buy as many as seven hybrid buses.

The new buses won’t be on the road for two years, because the ordering process takes time, Kester said.

The transit agency is still evaluating hybrid buses, and it could buy another kind of bus, Holman said. But for now, “we’re thinking that the hybrid electric is the way to go on the additional replacement buses.”

The news comes after Intercity Transit added six hybrid buses, fueled by diesel and electricity, to its fleet in August.

Kester said they haven’t been on the road long enough to provide a test sample of their fuel efficiency. But she said King County Metro has found that its hybrid buses are between 25 percent and 35 percent more fuel efficient than other buses.

The buses run quieter and don’t produce the heavy diesel smell associated with traditional buses, Kester said.

Intercity Transit has more than 100 vehicles in its fleet, she said. Of those, 68 are full-size bus coaches. The rest are smaller, van-like vehicles. In addition, the agency has nearly 200 vanpool vehicles.

Holman noted that the agency still needs to find funding to replace an additional seven buses put into operation between 1996 and 1998.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@theolympian.com

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