April 20--BREMERTON -- Kitsap Transit got permission Tuesday to replace its entire worker-driver bus fleet, and then some.
The program delivers shipyard employees back and forth to work via 28-year-old buses with more than a million miles on them. The federal government pays for the popular service as part of its Transportation Incentive Program because without it, traffic would be worse than it already is near the facilities. Two new worker-driver routes were recently added, bringing the total to 30 -- 28 to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and two to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.
The transit board on Tuesday approved the purchase of 28 used motor coaches for $1,288,551 and an option on up to eight more for a total cost of no more than $1,750,000. There would be two extra buses for expansion and four for spares.
The buses aren't new. They're 1994- through 1997-model motor coaches from Northwest Bus Sales of Edgewood, which was the only bidder. A price analysis determined that the bid came in less than the going rate. The first 28 will be delivered around the end of May.
The touring-style coaches are better suited to worker-driver service, said Kitsap Transit executive director Dick Hayes. They have high-backed reclining seats for longer trips with fewer stops, and gearing that gives better gas mileage for that type of route.
The agency estimates that the new buses will save it $74,000 in maintenance costs and $62,000 in fuel costs per year. They also have 47 seats, about 10 more than the existing buses, which could bring in more revenue.
The buses carry about 1,200 workers per day, and the number is climbing. February ridership increased 9 percent over February 2010, and March was up over that month a year ago by 13 percent, Hayes said.
All of the funding came from federal grants of one sort or another. Some of it became available when the bid to extend and renovate the passenger ferry Admiral Pete came in lower than expected. A big chunk came from raising the cost of worker-driver passes by $18.
Most of the buses won't need their engines rebuilt. Kitsap Transit has applied for a grant to bring them up to the latest pollution standards.
"One of the things that's really fashionable now we've been doing a long time," Hayes said of service that began during World War II. "This is one of the best commuter services in the country because it's absolutely targeted, and it's targeted with assistance from the Navy."
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