Upgrades to Asheville’s transit fleet continue with the replacement of nine buses with newer models. The new buses, two hybrids and seven diesels, began partial service this week and are expected to be in full operation within the next ten days.
The streamlined models are expected to reduce repair costs and fuel expenses as the City of Asheville continues to expand the implementation of the Transit Master Plan.
“This is a big milestone. We’ve been working full speed for four years to get new buses to replace our fleet,” said Transportation Planning Manager Mariate Echeverry.
Four of the buses were purchased with a blend of federal earmarks secured by former Rep. Heath Shuler in 2008 and 2009 and section 5309 of the Federal Transit Administration, allowing for an 80 percent federal funding match. Another 10 percent was picked up by State of North Carolina Department of Transportation and the remaining 10 percent by the City of Asheville.
The remaining five buses, all diesels, were purchased with an allocation from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 covering 100 percent of the cost.
The nine new buses mean that 14 out of 21 buses in the City of Asheville fleet have been replaced, making for a more efficient and reliable bus pool.
The new look of transit in Asheville began in 2011 when blue and green hybrid buses appeared on city streets. By the time phase one of the Transit Master Plan launched this spring, the new buses had become a common sight around the city.
The newest buses sport a more streamlined front end and continuous windows along their length, but they also utilize new automated passenger count technology that will provide needed data to continue to improve the ART system. The technology notes whenever passengers board or disembark a bus.
Those numbers provide data that allow the City of Asheville’s Transportation Planning Division to better understand the needs of the system’s ridership and to prioritize system improvements, as well as submit accurate three-year counts for federal funding applications.
One feature that remains unchanged is the presence of bike racks on buses. The racks have proved themselves to be a crucial enhancement to the growth of multimodal transportation in the City of Asheville, a strategic goal of Asheville City Council.
For more information about the ART system and route/schedule information, go to ridetheart.com.