Moving On

Volusia County's bus service is getting an upgrade with several grants paying for new buses.

The wheels on the buses cannot go 'round indefinitely, but, thanks to a large federal grant and some smaller state grants, Volusia County Public Transit System (Votran) will soon replace outdated portions of the fleet.

The Volusia County Council unanimously agreed Dec. 18 that more than $6 million in federal and state transportation grants, with barely a local match required, will be used to purchase new buses and paratransit vehicle.

“The $1,723,193 in state award will be used to purchase eight paratransit vehicles to support Votran Gold Service. The $856,331 requires a 10 percent match,” said Rob Stevens, Votran general manager. “What's notable about this particular funding is that it's competitive. We have received this type of funding in the past, but it's been in small amounts.”

The total on a 10 percent match of $856,331 is $85,633, a small price to pay for more than $6 million in funding, he said.

The larger portion of the grants awarded comes from the Federal Department of Transportation via Federal Capital Grant funding, and that will help replace an aging portion of the fleet, among other improvements, he said.

“The Federal Capital Grant Funding will be used for the purchase of seven fixed-route vehicles, two support vehicles, facility maintenance, which includes some safety and security improvements, automotive equipment and various software updates,” Mr. Stevens said.

The replacement vehicles have long past the federal definition of useful life, but have had an excellent maintenance staff keeping them running.

“Of the 82 vehicles that we have in the fixed-route fleet, 23 of those have passed their useful life,” he said. “The Federal Transit Administration describes useful life as 12 years or 500,000 miles, whichever comes first. These buses averaged 3.5 million miles, so we have a great staff keeping those online.”

Just one vehicle will be added, rather than used as a replacement, he said.

“These are replacement vehicles, save one,” Mr. Stevens said. “The other is apportioned for new service we are looking forward to in Deltona in 2019.”

Combined with County Council action in August, with other grant funding the total is 22 replacement vehicles, bringing the fleet up to date for Volusia County’s public transportation clients and keeping the wheels turning for many miles to come.

“Grant funding is great, but grant funding with (virtually) no match required is fantastic,” said Councilwoman Heather Post.

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