Some good news for public transportation users as SMART, the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transit, announced that it will spend $34.6 million on 80 new 40-foot buses.
The upgrade is the next significant move by SMART, who has already put 61 new propane-fueled paratransit Connector buses into action this year.
The purchase comes as a result of last year’s election, where 66 percent of voters approved a tax increase to help SMART upgrade 135 vehicles through a four-year operating issue boost.
Because SMART previously had to get permission to use operational funding for vehicle maintenance, the tax has afforded them the freedom to work around that constraint allowing them to make the upgrades they need without the red tape.
Additionally, the tax increase helped wipe out their annual operating budget deficit, which was around $4.6 million.
The new buses will a be significant upgrade a system that as of last year had nearly 88 percent of its nearly 600-bus fleet running on over 500,000 miles, far exceeding the standard set by the Federal Transit Administration.
The buses are called BRTs, or bus rapid transit models, and will be built by Gillig Corporation out of Hayward, California. They’ll cost around $433,000 per bus. Each one will boast stainless steel bike racks, LED signs, and nonskid flooring.
And they’re built to last, promising 500,000 miles or 12 years of road life.
Further, the buses will have greatly enhanced safety features, including 11 on board security cameras to provide a 360-degree view of the interior and exterior of the vehicle. This improvement may help ease some of the safety concerns riders have expressed, helping to reduce violence on the public transportation system.
“We are making great strides to replace our aging fleet as quickly as possible,” said SMART General Manager John Hertel in a statement. “We are keeping the promise we made during the millage. Not only will there be new buses on the road soon, but our riders will get to experience a much improved ride and better service. They deserve it given their support during the millage and their understanding of the importance of the bus service for the region.”
59 of the new buses will take action in late spring 2016, with the remainder of the fleet arriving in 2017, SMART said.
The fleet currently runs 43 routes in 27 of Wayne County’s local government areas, in addition to 24 communities each in Macomb and Oakland counties, and provides about 10 million rides annually. SMART provides very limited service to the city of Detroit during rush hour and mostly to downtown Detroit, and is separate in governance from the Detroit Department of Transportation, the agency that handles transit for the city proper.