NC: Jacksonville Adds Five New Buses

July 31--Now, the work begins.

The three new International Starcraft buses -- a number that will soon total five -- are slated to join Jacksonville Transit routes after state inspections and registrations this month, said Anthony Prinz, the Transportation Services administrator at Jacksonville Urban Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The 30-passenger cruisers, parked at the Public Services Complex on South Marine Boulevard on July 23, several years after the city planned the purchase, Prinz said.

"The purpose of the new vehicle purchase was to buy three replacement vehicles to cycle some of our older, smaller vehicles out of the fleet and add two additional vehicles," Prinz said. "We're going from a fleet of 11 to a fleet of 13."

Jacksonville Transit's current Ford E-450 shuttles carry 18 passengers.

"The capacity per vehicle will almost double," Prinz said. "Really, we're trying to reinforce the existing fleet."

The five buses -- all of which are International Starcrafts -- cost about $525,000, Prinz said. That does not include inspection, registration and overhead for training and compliance with standards set by N.C. Department of Transportation.

Before registration and other expenses, the new buses will cost the city about $52,500.

"We still haven't finished with all the expenses yet so it is not feasible to approximate cost," Prinz said. "We don't know what the final expense is until we do registration."

Of the more than half-million-dollar outlay approved "years ago," Prinz said 90 percent -- roughly $472,500 -- is federal and state money.

About 80 percent of the funding came from a Federal Transit Administration grant; about 10 percent tapped NCDOT money, he added.

The city's General Fund obligation to Jacksonville Transit the next fiscal year "is anticipated to be $386,000, supporting ... operations and capital expenditures such as vehicle replacement," Prinz said.

The next two buses are expected in about two weeks, he added.

The new buses are not expected to generate more ridership. "However, the city has plans to implement new bus-stop amenities -- shelters, benches, etc. -- and technology, which is anticipated to build community awareness and attract new riders," Prinz said.

Jacksonville's population dropped roughly 2.5 percent from 2010 to 2012, according to the latest U.S. Census data. However, the city's bus ridership grew 13.6 percent between fiscal years 2011 and 2013, according to information from the city.

"The city completed a short-range transit plan in 2012 that identified several areas within our community in need of service: Hargett Street, Georgetown and Freedom Village topped the list of those areas," Prinz said. "Our plan is to implement a new route by the end of the year that connects all of these locations to retail and employment opportunities on Western Boulevard."

For more information about riding Jacksonville Transit and routes, call 910-938-5200.

Copyright 2014 - The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C.

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