CINCINNATI -- Facing persistent budgetary problems and aging facilities, Cincinnati Metro had some good news Monday: More than $26 million in federal grants will help the transit agency add 70 much-needed new buses to its fleet.
Late last year, Metro announced that nearly a third of its fleet of standard 40-foot buses had extended past the industry standard for "useful life span" of 12 years, per Federal Transit Administration standards.
Metro officials said in a news release Monday that 27 new buses would launch into the fleet by the end of 2018, with another 43 cycling into the fleet by the end of 2019. Six of those buses are shorter, 30-foot "cutaway" buses that carry fewer passengers but use less fuel. These will deploy on routes that do not have enough ridership to warrant the standard buses.
Each of the new buses will provide WiFi and mobile device charging ports. Metro added WiFi to more than 60 of its buses last spring.
"We’re proud to be able to provide our riders with the amenities they expect and have asked for to make the choice of riding Metro a more enjoyable experience," said Metro CEO Dwight Ferrell in the news release.
A 40-foot bus costs roughly $500,000 to replace. The FTA, the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments awarded the $26.1 million to Metro for purchasing the new coaches. The grants required a 20 percent match from the transit agency, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority.
With the new buses added in 2018, Metro will still operate more than 70 buses beyond their useful life of 12 years.
In July, the SORTA Board of Trustees chose not to pursue a ballot measure asking Hamilton County voters to approve a sales tax levy for improved Metro service. The transit agency is facing a $160 million budget deficit over the next decade if leaders do not establish a new or supplemental permanent source of funding.