St. Petersburg, Fla. – Thirteen of the oldest diesel buses at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) will be replaced with brand new hybrid electric ones set to arrive by next week. Nine have already arrived at PSTA headquarters.
Despite a significant decrease in federal grant funds in recent years as Congressional earmarks were eliminated and bus-specific funding sources were reduced, PSTA continues to prioritize federal dollars on its bus replacement plan. A sustainable capital plan has been the focus of PSTA’s new strategic direction, Path Forward, since it was unanimously voted into effect by the board last month.
“This is the healthiest fleet we have ever had,” said Director of Maintenance Henry Lukasik. “We are really focused on our customers and making sure that they always have a reliable, safe, and environmentally-friendly bus at their disposal.”
The 2015 class of Gillig 40-foot diesel-electric hybrid buses adds to PSTA’s growing number of energy-efficient vehicles. The 61 total hybrid “Smart” buses will now make-up 30% of the nearly 200 public transit buses in Pinellas County.
This year’s purchase of 13 buses was the biggest order PSTA has placed in more than five years. The buses were purchased from Gillig Corporation through a cost-saving consortium of all the public transit systems in Florida.
“This public investment goes right to the private sector to support more than 200 U.S jobs in our California assembly plant,” said Gillig Bus Inc. Senior Representative Butch Sibley. “We pride ourselves on providing the best possible buses everywhere in Florida, but we especially appreciate PSTA’s business.”
Valued at more than $37 million dollars, PSTA’s fleet of buses is its greatest asset, aside from its customers.
PSTA’s long-term capital plan calls for maintaining its mix of approximately one-third hybrid buses for the future, while replacing older diesel buses with new cleaner diesel buses that have lower emissions, as per new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.
PSTA anticipates that the new buses will be fully deployed into active service by the end of August 2015.