Director of Communications
November 5, 2010
Metro will get a boost in its program to restore transit service to customers with a new $4 million federal grant that the Agency will use to buy 12 buses. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has notified Metro that its grant application has been approved through the FTA Clean Fuels Bus Grant program to buy buses that meet current federal emissions requirements.
Metro immediately needs more buses to restore services that were reduced in March 2009 for financial reasons. St. Louis County voters approved a half-cent sales-tax increase in April 2010 to provide the long-term revenue source needed to restore service and rebuild the bus fleet. Metro began implementing service restoration in June and has been working to speed up bus acquisition.
“This grant gets us closer to the number of buses we need to fully restore service to our customers,” said Ray Friem, Metro Chief Operating Officer. “We’ve been managing our fleet to cover the higher demands of restoring service. This grant, plus Metro’s contribution of $1 million in a local match, will be an important step toward rebuilding the fleet to meet our customers’ needs.”
Friem said Metro has been searching for grants to help rebuild its bus fleet because the Agency had to cancel purchases in recent years because of financial challenges. He said the world-class performance of Metro’s Maintenance Department has allowed it to operate buses beyond the industry standard of 500,000 miles and Metro’s target of an average bus age of eight years. As of December 2009, 67 percent of the buses in Metro’s fleet had logged an average of 500,000 miles and 36 percent ranged from 10 to 18 years old. This year, 160 buses in the fleet of 360 are eligible to be replaced.
“Our goal is to get back to our base business plan where we replace about one-fifteenth of our fleet each year. Eventually, our target is to consistently buy 30 new buses a year. Right now, with us short on buses, we are expediting our purchase schedule and obtaining grants such as this one is very helpful in those efforts,” Friem said.
In addition to rebuilding the bus fleet to provide quality transit service to customers, the acquisition of new buses will have a positive impact on the region’s air quality. The eight-county area in the St. Louis Metropolitan Region in southeastern Missouri and southwestern Illinois is a non-attainment area, meaning its air quality is below federal standards for ozone and fine-particle material from vehicle emissions. Emissions from buses built before 1998 are higher than current federal standards.