An uncommon occurrence in the public transit industry is for a bus to reach one million miles on its original engine without a mid-life overhaul. That is exactly the milestone Metro transit has achieved through its industry-leading vehicle maintenance program on March 29, 2017. Metro operates a fleet of 400 public transit buses for the St. Louis region, and the Million-Mile Bus is the first of what could be at least a dozen that potentially will reach that unique milestone in the next couple of years.
The Million-Mile Bus, which Metro purchased and put into service in 2001, is a Gillig Phantom with a Cummins M11 engine. Metro operated the bus in regular service throughout the St. Louis region for the first eight years, before it was purchased by one of its key transit partners, the St. Clair County Transit District (SCCTD). Since then, Metro has operated the bus for the SCCTD in St. Clair County in Illinois. The bus is still in active service in Illinois, recording more than 8,000 miles a month and approximately 96,000 a year. Over the last 16 years, the bus has traveled more than a million miles without an engine overhaul or significant mechanical issue.
“To put it into perspective, it’s the same as if this bus had traveled around the world more than 40 times,” said John Nations, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bi-State Development. Metro transit is one of BSD’s five enterprises. “Not only that, it reached that one million miles on the original engine. A million miles without a major breakdown. A million miles connecting thousands of people each year to jobs, education, medical appointments, baseball games, entertainment and other important destinations throughout the region.”
This unique milestone is the result of an innovative, internationally-recognized maintenance program. In 2001, Metro began an internal transformation to completely redesign the fleet maintenance program, changing the focus from reactive to proactive preventative or predictive maintenance. Today, Metro leads the transit industry in several performance, reliability, and maintenance metrics, while reducing capital expenses and keeping operational costs at an all-time low.
“In 2000, the lifespan of our buses was around 12 years or 500,000 miles. Today, we average 15 years and more than 750,000 miles, well beyond industry standards,” said Ray Friem, Executive Director for Metro Transit.
By extending the operational lifespan of its buses, Metro is able to purchase a single bus to meet the demands that other transit systems would need two or three buses to satisfy. These efficiencies ensure that taxpayer funds supporting public transit are wisely invested and used to their fullest potential.
The Million-Mile Bus continues to operate regular transit service in Illinois for the remainder of 2017. Next year, the bus will be moved to Redbird Express service, which provides special, direct shuttle service for baseball fans between St. Clair Square in Illinois and Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis.