Pierce Transit looking to purchase 10 new buses

Staff writerApril 11, 2014 

Pierce Transit wants to buy 10 new buses at a cost of $5.4 million, moving forward with a purchase put off last fall.

The agency said it’s now able to buy the buses because of stable sales tax revenue.

They would replace 10 natural-gas-powered coaches that are 14 years old. The lifespan of their natural gas tanks will end in March 2015, and at that point the buses can’t be used to transport passengers for safety reasons, said agency spokeswoman Carol Mitchell.

It will take 12 to 17 months to obtain the new buses once they’re ordered.

Pierce Transit’s board is expected to decide Monday whether to increase the budget to buy the buses with sales tax revenue. Each 40-seat, 40-foot-long vehicle costs $541,141.

Sales tax collections have been stable for six months of reports since the current budget was prepared last fall, “reducing uncertainty about future service and confirming the need for these buses,” a staff report says.

Sales tax reports continue to look good. In January — the most recent data available — sales tax revenue increased 4.2 percent compared with January 2013.

Pierce Transit is increasing service hours this year to 427,717. That’s still dramatically lower than the 617,000 hours that were in effect in 2008 before voters twice rejected sales-tax increase measures.

Pierce Transit has 130 compressed natural gas buses in its fleet.

Without the new coaches, the agency says it would have to use diesel-powered buses from its reserve fleet that have racked up on average 714,240 miles each. Relying on the reserve buses “would increase road failures, negatively impact service delivery and escalate maintenance costs,” the report says.

Pierce Transit also wants the board Monday to approve buying 39 support vehicles at a cost of $956,007 to replace aging vans. Unlike the buses, this purchase was already included in the 2014 budget.

Support vehicles are used daily by field supervisors and bus drivers to get to and from the transit base to their route assignments. Pierce Transit hasn’t replaced any support vehicles since 2009 because of cutbacks.

Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647

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