MD: TransIT Prepares Grant Requests

Feb. 12--TransIT's wish list includes three electric buses, an automatic vehicle location system and a passenger counter system.

The county's public transit authority presented its annual transportation and grant application plan at a public hearing Tuesday. It will go before the Board of County Commissioners on Feb. 20, and county-approved requests will be sent to the state by March 5.

TransIT is asking the federal and Maryland transit administrations for about $3.5 million to operate its buses, commuter shuttles and paratransit services. That represents a $25,000 decrease in operating funds from last year.

It will apply for an additional $2.4 million in grants for capital projects.

With that money, TransIT hopes to buy three electric buses to replace some older diesel buses.

"It takes about a year to get one of the buses from the time you order it, and two of the buses we're asking to replace are two years past their useful life," director Nancy Norris said.

One of the buses to be replaced has been out of service since it caught fire in the TransIT lot. The fire department quickly put out the fire, and no one was hurt, according to Norris.

The electric buses will require TransIT to install a new transformer to handle the load of recharging the vehicles. In the long term, however, they could save the system on fuel and maintenance costs.

"The cost for the electricity versus the fuel is a huge savings over the life of the bus," Norris said, adding that a diesel bus gets about 4 miles per gallon, while an electric bus gets the equivalent of 21 mpg.

Electric vehicles can also reduce maintenance costs by about 60 percent over diesel, she said, because there are far fewer parts under the hood. Over the lifetime of the electric buses, they should be $464 cheaper than conventional buses.

TransIT also hopes to secure grants for a vehicle location system that could be used to let riders know exactly when their bus will be at their stop.

"The big thing is the customer experience," Norris said. "It helps you plan routes because you can actually look where the bus is along the route."

Tracking could be used to investigate incidents and passenger complaints. It would also help the system automate mileage reporting and plan routes more accurately.

TransIT is also asking for a grant for automatic passenger counters. Drivers fill paper logs counting passengers on their route; automatic counters would free up their time for other tasks.

Follow Kelsi Loos on Twitter: @KelsiFNP.

DETAILS

TransIT will apply for the following operating funds from the Federal Transit Administration and the Maryland Transit Administration:

$2,656,759 from urbanized area formula grants (Section 5307) and Americans with Disabilities Act grants.

$306,792 from Formula Grants for Other than Urbanized Areas (Section 5311)

$159,159 from Demand Response

$359,159 from Rideshare program

Operation subtotal: $3,481,869

TransIT will apply for the following capital grants:

$603,000 for preventive maintenance

$1,542,500 for three electric buses and related infrastructure

$157,500 for automatic vehicle location system

$135,000 for automatic passenger counters

Capital subtotal: $2.438 million

Grand total: $5,919,869

Source: TransIT informational materials

Copyright 2014 - The Frederick News-Post, Md.

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