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Columbia receives federal funds to replace aging buses

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 | 6:21 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The city of Columbia is slated to replace about one-fifth of its bus fleet thanks to funds from the Federal Transit Administration

The city was informed last week that it will receive a $2 million grant from the FTA as part of the State of Good Repair Program. The program seeks to make transit services around the country safer and more reliable by updating and repairing aging facilities and vehicles, according to a press release from the Transit Administration.

The city will use the funds to buy an estimated six large buses and two smaller vans, said Jill Stedem, spokeswoman for the Columbia Public Works Department.

The larger 40-foot buses cost around $370,000 each, while the smaller vans, which are used for some college routes and paratransit, cost about $65,000 each. 

The city plans to purchase the new buses this year. However, Columbia bus riders probably won't see them for a couple of years, as it takes about two years to receive the buses after placing the order.

Columbia Transit has 41 vehicles — 30 large buses and 11 of the smaller vans. The grant will not lead to an increase in the overall size of the fleet, as all of the new buses will replace older buses, Stedem said. 

Because the fleet will not increase, Stedem said she does not expect the grant to affect the general experiences of an average bus rider in the city of Columbia.

"They're just getting older, and we'd like to keep buses that are more fuel-efficient," she said.

Overall, the age of current city buses is “all over the place,” said Stedem. Most of the vehicles that will be replaced with the funding are 1995 or 1997 models.

Last year, the city purchased two new buses to replace its oldest vehicles, a pair of 1989 models, with a separate grant.

As a requirement for receiving the latest grant, the city of Columbia must provide funds matching 20 percent of the total cost.  These funds will come from a half-percent transportation sales tax that is already in place, Stedem said. 

Nationwide, the Federal Transit Administration awarded $776 million across 45 states to be used on 152 projects. Overall, 400 different entities applied for the funds, said Paul Griffo, senior public affairs officer for the FTA.

Columbia was one of four parties in the state of Missouri to receive funding. A full list of funded projects can be found on the FTA website.


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