Schenectady County

CDTA to buy buses with bailout cashbuses

About $15.7 million in federal economic stimulus money that is coming to the Capital District Transp
PHOTOGRAPHER:

About $15.7 million in federal economic stimulus money that is coming to the Capital District Transportation Authority will be used to buy new buses — with cash instead of a loan, the CDTA board decided Wednesday.

The board, meeting at the Rensselaer Rail Station, voted to order 40 buses for a total cost of $16.7 million, advancing planned 2010 bus purchases to this year.

The board decided to use the federal stimulus money for buying buses even though some of it could have been used for the operating costs of the agency, which is raising basic fares on April 1 because of ongoing multimillion-dollar budget deficits.

“This is a very conservative approach to spending the stimulus money for its intended purpose,” CDTA Executive Director Raymond Melleady said.

The buses are being purchased from Gillig Corp. of Hayward, Calif., under an existing five-year bus purchase contract and will generate bus production jobs there.

The new buses will replace existing older buses CDTA now has in service. They will be delivered in about a year.

CDTA, the public transportation agency for Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties, has a bus fleet of about 250 vehicles and replaces some older buses every year.

The authority was planning to buy 20 new replacement buses this year anyway and will be advancing the planned 2010 purchase of 20 more buses to take advantage of the funding. It will not buy any new buses next year, potentially freeing up money then for other uses.

The new buses will be a combination of diesel-electric hybrid and clean-fuel diesel vehicles, with the number of each yet to be determined, Melleady said.

About 20 percent of the CDTA fleet is already hybrid, vehicles that have a higher up-front cost but get better fuel mileage and produce less pollution.

“We’re very happy with our hybrid program,” Melleady said.

Board members said they’re pleased to able to pay cash for the new buses, rather than having to consider borrowing, which would bring interest charges in future years.

“Paying cash for the buses is like paying cash for your car; it’s a tremendous relief,” said CDTA board member Joseph Spairara Jr. of Rensselaer County.

Board Chairman David Stackrow of Rensselaer County said it’s possible that CDTA will get more money as the stimulus program plays out.

“We’re optimistic we’ll be able to receive more money down the road because some of the [transit] agencies may not be able to spend money within the [two-year] time frame,” Stackrow said.

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