The Port Authority of Allegheny County is set to enter into a contract to purchase 53 new buses. 25 of the buses will be the longer 60-foot articulated buses and the remaining 28 will be the more typical 40-foot single-section bus. Four of the 40-foot buses will be equipped with Hybrid engines. PAT Executive Director Steve Bland says they would have liked to buy all hybrids but the funding is not there. Each hybrid bus costs about $200,000 more ($595,000 v. $393,000) than a regular diesel bus. Bland says they opted for the more expensive buses only when the authority was able to land grant funds specifically targeted to purchasing clean bus technology. He says he hopes more of those grants will be coming in the future. PAT Bus Operations Officer Bill Miller says over the life of the bus they will save about $100,000 dollars in fuel and maintenance costs. Bland notes that there are additional benefits in fewer emissions and quieter operations. He says the drivers and the riders love them.
The purchase comes at a time when PAT is facing huge budget deficits and the possibility of shrinking operations. Bland says some ask why PAT is purchasing the buses now. He says, “If we are down to one bus we still need to replace that one bus eventually.” Miller says the average age of the fleet is 8-years old. The average life of a bus is 12 years. Miller says the buses that will be taken out of service were purchased in 1996. Bland says, “We were over budget in materials and labor, in large part this year because we have had to do a lot of extra work on our aging bus fleet.” He says the new buses will help keep those expenses in check.