APTA | Passenger Transport
April 13, 2009

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2009 APTA - TRB Light Rail Conference Issue


Putting Recovery Funds to Work

This story is part of an ongoing series in Passenger Transport highlighting how public transportation systems are spending funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The stories will examine the variety of ARRA-funded projects that will both help stimulate the economy through job creation and enhance public transportation in communities across the country.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) plans to spend nearly $202 million in ARRA funding on 29 projects that include fixing crumbling platforms, repairing tracks, and buying new vehicles. WMATA plans to begin with a contract for the purchase of about 45 new hybrid-electric buses.

“No one was expecting these additional federal funds a year ago, so this is a great opportunity for Metro to make needed infrastructure improvements that were previously unfunded and at the same time help improve the region’s economy,” said WMATA General Manager John Catoe.

Laketran in Grand River, OH, will receive $3.6 million in ARRA funding, of which $1.4 million will go toward the purchase of four 30-foot low floor transit buses and $1.3 million for 18 paratransit vans. The agency also listed security cameras, radios, and capitalized maintenance expenses in its list of ARRA projects.

Valley Metro in Phoenix has reported transit projects to receive ARRA funding out of more than $66 million. The largest outlay, $28.5 million, will go to Phoenix for projects including $5 million in Central Station Transit Center refurbishments; $5.4 million in preventive maintenance; and park-and-ride construction and expansion. The Regional Public Transportation Authority will use $15 million for Bus Rapid Transit capital, while Scottsdale and Tempe will receive $5 million and $6.5 million respectively for facility construction and expansion.

In the suburbs of Chicago, Pace Suburban Bus plans to use its entire $33.1 million from ARRA for fleet purchases: $18 million for up to 58 30-foot buses; $13.2 million for up to 190 paratransit vehicles; and $1.9 million for up to 84 non-revenue support vehicles. “We’ve been using our capital funds to cover operating cost overruns for the past five years,” said Pace spokesperson Patrick Wilmot, “and are now in the situation where we need to use the stimulus funds to bring our fleet into a state of good repair.” He noted that Pace plans to add hybrid and alternative fuel buses to its fleet eventually, but “at this point in time, we need to dedicate our vehicle purchases toward replacing as many vehicles as we can, which means we’ll continue to buy diesel buses for now.”

ARRA funds totaling about $9.4 million will allow the Golden Gate Ferry division of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation District to refurbish one of two vessels recently purchased from Washington State Ferries to “like-new” condition. The district will use its own funds and other grant sources to pay for refurbishments to the second ferry.

City Utilities in Springfield, MO, plans to use its $2.9 million in ARRA funds to complete a new downtown bus transfer station ($1.5 million) and began expanding its maintenance campus ($1.4 million). “Both these projects are somewhat driven by our decision to purchase larger replacement buses, in the near future, due to current capacity issues,” said Carol Cruise, director, transit services.

Palm Tran in West Palm Beach, FL, is due to receive $21 million through the program, with the largest amount—$14.5 million—going toward the purchase of 10 hybrid buses, 15 diesel buses, and four alternative fuel trolleys. Other projects in the pipeline include $3 million toward construction of an operations/maintenance facility and $2.3 million for two new park-and-ride facilities.

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