WP makes progress on replacing bus fleet | SkyHiNews.com

WP makes progress on replacing bus fleet

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com

Love 'em or hate 'em, the iron-sided school buses that make up Winter Park Resort's shuttle fleet have long been a familiar sight in the Fraser Valley.

But the visage of the old buses trundling down U.S. Highway 40 looks to become a thing of the past as the Town of Winter Park starts replacing the aging fleet.

The town purchased ten used Regional Transportation District buses at a Feb. 10 auction.

A week and a half ago, the Colorado Department of Transportation informed the town that it had been awarded an $800,000 grant to go toward the purchase of three new buses.

Winter Park is currently in the process of taking over operations of the Winter Park Resort shuttle. The town hopes to establish a year-round transit system in the Fraser Valley.

The Winter Park Town Council approved a memorandum of understanding in May 2015 outlining its intent to take ownership of the system.

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The town plans to replace the current fleet with 18 buses – 15 transit buses and three cutaway buses.

"Clearly, we've got many years of capital purchases coming up to replace that entire fleet," said Town Manager Drew Nelson.

The town made a huge leap in that process with its February purchase of ten Orion transit buses for $17,600.

"Considering that the average transit bus costs $450,000, I think it's a good deal for the community to at least get our fleet started in the right direction," Nelson said.

Each bus has 42 seats and a capacity of about twice that, and they're all ADA accessible – a big plus for the town.

Though Orion no longer manufactures buses, Nelson said parts for the buses are easy to locate.

The buses are currently getting a facelift – a new coat of paint and new tires – before they get inspected.

The town got technical advice on the purchases from a First Transit maintenance manager experienced with the particular make and model, Nelson said.

First Transit operates the system under contract.

Winter Park's 2016 budget allocated $200,000 toward purchasing two new full-sized transit buses and one smaller cutaway bus, which the town estimated would cost around $1 million.

It applied for an $800,000 grant from CDOT's FASTER program last year to supplement town funds. FASTER uses revenue from vehicle registration fees and fines to fund safety initiatives, bridges and transit.

A week and a half ago, the state awarded Winter Park the grant.

The town must now wait for July 1, the start of the state's fiscal year, before it can enter into a contract for the grant.

New buses take between 18 and 24 months to construct, so the earliest Winter Park expects to receive the new buses is 2018, Nelson said.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-557-6010.

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