RTA to use $2.3 million to replace aging buses

Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority plans to replace 10 of its aging diesel buses with the help of a federal grant.

The U.S. Department of Transportation this week announced that the RTA was been awarded more than $2.3 million to help update its fleet.

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“Our job is to transport people, so our no. 1 priority is to make sure to have the best buses in the best operating condition that we can possibly have,” said Robert Ruzinsky, chief capital officer with the Greater Dayton RTA.

Buses need to last a minimum of 12 years or 500,000 miles, but some buses in RTA’s fleet are about 20 years old or younger but have well exceeded the half-million-mile mark.

The RTA each year gets a little less than $25 million in federal grant money, but about half of those funds have to support maintenance and paratransit operations, officials said.

RTA has about $200 million in capital needs over the next six years, so the $2.3 million grant is extremely helpful to narrow the funding gap, Ruzinsky said.

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The new diesel buses are more reliable, more comfortable, less prone to breakdowns and maintenance issues and have enhanced security features, Ruzinsky said.

RTA is replacing 31 buses that it acquired in 1998 over the next couple of years, Ruzinsky said, and then will replace the next-oldest buses from 2007 that have logged 550,000 miles.

For years, the RTA could not compete for the federal dollars it was awarded this week, because the money was earmarked for transit systems in the northeastern U.S. and other parts of the nation, Ruzinsky said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, worked to open up the funding to make it competitive, and RTA received a significant allocation compared to the amount distributed nationwide, he said.

The federal agency awarded $200 million in grants nationally.

Turner said it was unfair that there were isolated pots of money that Dayton couldn’t vie for.

In August, Turner sent a letter in support of RTA’s grant request to the Federal Transit Administration.

The RTA also has four Next Generation electronic trolleys and will be rolling out about 26 new trolleys in 2019. That purchase is separate from the grant awarded this week.

RTA has 225 buses in its fleet and over a six-year period it will have replaced every one of the vehicles.

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