MTD board orders new buses, vans

CHAMPAIGN — Members of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District board acted Wednesday to order 10 new 40-foot hybrid buses, three gas-powered vans and to apply for the agency's full $24.9 million state operating assistance grant for the current year.

The new buses, expected to be available by early 2013, will bring to 55 the number of hybrid coaches in the MTD's 102-bus fleet.

They will cost about $560,000 apiece, according to Karl Gnadt, the MTD's director of market development. Eight of the buses will be paid with 65 percent state money, and a 35 percent local share. The two other buses will be paid with a 83 percent federal money, 17 percent state money.

The vans are needed because the MTD, as well as other bus systems in Illinois, have experienced mechanical problems with hybrid vans that had been provided by the state. The replacement vans are worth about $78,000 apiece and will be paid with state funds.

The hybrid vans have had problems with the hot weather this summer, Volk said.

"We were having problems with them even before the summer. But the hot weather has just exacerbated the issues we have with them," said Volk.

Four other bus agencies, including those in Decatur and Bloomington-Normal, got the balky hybrid vans, he said.

"Some of the other systems have just parked them, they're not even trying to run them. But we've got too many of them and are trying to keep them running," Volk said.

The MTD board acted on the budget items at a special board meeting Wednesday afternoon. The meeting was necessary, Volk said, because of an upcoming change in Illinois Department of Transportation purchasing rules coming in conflict with the MTD's need for new vehicles.

"We expect to receive these vans any day now and for us to make a payment we're trying to follow yet-to-be promulgated rules by IDOT. We're trying to cover our bases," he said. "At the same time we've asked for a waiver from their rules to move ahead with this before they promulgate their new rules."

He admitted, however, that "if they don't like our resolution here that we'll have to do it over again."

Meanwhile, the board also made official its request for its full state operating grant. The nearly $25 million is a 10 percent increase in funding over last year's state appropriation.

The MTD board also learned that it will meet with a search consultant on Sept. 17 to begin the process to find a replacement for Volk. The MTD's director since 1974 said last month that he plans to retire in June 2014. The consultant is being brought in to explain to board members the various options for finding a replacement for Volk. No contracts have been signed to conduct a search.

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