PARTA to get four new buses

Dave Yochum

A student boards one of the older buses at the Student Center bus stop. PARTA has just ordered four new Phantom-series buses from Gillig Corporation that are set to arrive in February 2007. STEPHANIE J. SMITH | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

PARTA has placed an order with the Gillig Corporation for four new buses that will be put into service by February of 2007.

Partnering with Pittsburgh’s Port Authority Transit for the deal, PARTA will pay nearly $300,000 for each new bus – a figure that could be reduced if applications for grants and federal funding are approved. In order to restore and refurbish the remaining fleet of PARTA buses, the regional transit authority will be selling off buses used primarily for longer routes, such as trips to Cleveland or Akron. The new buses were ordered according to PARTA’s vehicle replacement schedule, addressing the need to update an aging fleet that dates back to 1986.

“The majority of our fleet is 1989 buses, which met their useful, industry-standard life in 2001,” said Brian Trautman, PARTA’s director of maintenance. “The buses we got from Kent State had an average age of 16 years on them, but they still meet safety guidelines set by the FTA (Federal Transit Administration) today.”

While increased fuel and steel costs will force PARTA to shell out more money for each new Phantom-series bus, PARTA will be selling buses no longer used for chartering Kent State sporting events or off-campus activities. Using the money from the bus sales, PARTA will restore older vehicles suffering from cracked seats and poor cushioning – a move that will be beneficial to both the company and riders.

“When you hit a bump in the old buses it sounds like the whole thing is falling apart,” junior communications major Beau Miller said. “They’re just not clean or well-maintained.”

Trautman agrees with Miller, admitting some of the buses are in pretty bad shape.

“When people are riding the buses and hearing all the shakes and rattles, they’re noticing old, worn-out buses that have seen better days,” Trautman explained. “We’re going to restore the older buses like you can restore an antique car and make it safe.”

For PARTA bus drivers such as Shirly Rose, freshman chemistry major, new buses are a welcome addition – as long as they meet a few small requirements.

“The only feature I need a new bus to have is heat to keep my feet warm,” Rose said. “The windshield wipers and back doors on some buses now don’t work so great now, so having those work would help.”

Rose, whose sister also drove for the campus bus service, said that drivers are pretty hard on the busses, but that “they can take it.”

PARTA purchased Gillig buses, the only current bus make in their fleet, because finding and ordering parts for a Gillig bus is quicker and easier than using a different manufacturer based outside of the United States. The new Gillig “Phantoms” will feature 275 horsepower diesel engines and new IO controls to reduce weight. PARTA is also exploring the option of installing security cameras on the new buses.

“Cameras would provide a greater sense of security for both drivers and passengers,” Trautman said. “Other than that, the buses will be just a basic people-mover.”

Contact transportation reporter Dave Yochum at [email protected]