The RTC invested $5 million for the new diesel-hybrid buses using a combination of local fuel tax funds and the acquisition of a Federal Transit Administration State of Good Repair Grant, according to RTC Executive Director Lee Gibson. He said Friday the new buses would not only improve the quality of life for riders on the RTC services, but would help bring new projects to the community via the savings.
“At the first level they are just nice buses,” Gibson said. “They are customer friendly. They are comfortable, but I think from our point of view running a business these buses are going to provide us with better operating efficiency.
“The hybrids save fuel, which saves money, and that is part of our effort to introduce capital projects into the system to save operating dollars. That’s what these buses will do for us.”
Gibson said $100,000 per year would be saved in operating costs because of the updated buses, four of which will be used on Virginia Street and the other four will be “spread evenly throughout the system so everyone has a chance to see and ride the new buses.”
Bonnie Weber, Chair of the Washoe County Commission and RTC Board of Directors, spoke briefly during the celebration and said the RTC provides “a vital service for the community.” She said riders are not the only ones benefiting from the investment.
“These buses will help us preserve the quality of life in our region by reducing congestion and fuel emissions,” Weber said. “These buses have a better fuel economy and will allow the RTC to put more services on the street.”
Sparks City Councilwoman Julia Ratti said the working relationship between the City Council and the RTC has been great and added that improving transportation for those who need it was an important part to being a progressive city.
“I think public transportation is important for the entire city, but in particular for those who live in the urban core,” Ratti said. “There is such a great opportunity to take cars off the road and transport people more efficiently both for their benefit and for the benefit of the city.
“I think the RTC has done some great work in advancing transit. Certainly taking $100,000 in green energy and turning it into more services is a huge accomplishment.”
Ratti said the hybrid aspect of the new buses has a two-fold effect on the region that reaches beyond eliminating fuel emissions. She said talks from Mike Kazmierski, CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), show prospective businesses determining whether to relocate to the Truckee Meadows looking for some key factors.
“(Kazmierski) has talked about how many of the companies we are trying to lure to our area are looking if our city has an environmental component, is our city sustainable and how we are going to live the next 50 years of our lives,” Ratti said. “They want to see that and this is just one more thing we can point to and say we are a progressive city and this is a great place to live, work and play.”
Gibson said the RTC spent 18 months in the community talking to citizens and business owners before finding the overwhelming response to be more services and more choices. He said the new buses would provide just that and said they will be a “key assets for the community.”
“We are doing a lot with a lot less,” Ratti said, “And so anywhere we can get creative like this and make sure the investment pays off in both environmental sustainability and physical sustainability is huge.”
Pyramid Way/McCarran Boulevard update
The RTC Board of Directors approved an amendment to the 2011-2015 Regional Transportation Improvement Plan for the right of way acquisition for the Pyramid/McCarran Intersection widening and improvement.
According to Gibson, the amendment will allow the RTC to “move forward more expeditiously” on acquiring property in the intersection’s area and will allow for access to more funds to help the families who are affected.
“We are going to secure $23 million of federal funds and we are going to be able to help move those families who are in that affected area and hopefully move them along sooner,” Gibson said. “Today was the first step and we have amended the transportation improvement program to include that $23 million."
The next step is for NDOT to amend the state transportation improvement program and we will be able to obligate those dollars shortly and get that project moving forward faster than before.”