Springdale-based Ozark Regional Transit has acquired five handicapped-accessible vehicles built by a subsidiary of the company that produced the Jeep and Humvee.
In late October, ORT received five MV-1 vehicles, which are manufactured at the AM General plant in Mishawaka, Ind. Two were put to use right away, while the others await technology upgrades, such as a GPS system and Wi-Fi connectivity, ORT executive director Joel Gardner said.
ORT is paying $225,000 for the vehicles through a lease-to-own program of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, CFO Melinda Campbell said. The highway department’s TransLease Program offers a 48-month, lease-to-own agreement and interest free loans, Gardner said. Federal money is paying for 85% of the purchase, while the remaining 15% is a combination of public and private funds, Campbell said.
Gardner explained the benefit of these vehicles compared to a converted minivan is MV-1 vehicles are “built from the ground up” to be handicapped accessible whereas the minivans must be retrofitted to accommodate wheelchairs.
“You can see the modifications just by looking at it,” he said of the converted minivans, but the MV-1 vehicle “bears no marks of post-production. Our passengers like them.”
Campbell said the vehicles have replaced existing ones on paratransit and demand response routes. “People call, and they schedule their rides,” she said. A one-way ride costs $2.50.
Since they were put into service, they’ve given about 600 rides in Northwest Arkansas.
The MV-1 is manufactured by Mobility Ventures, a subsidiary of AM General, and was “initially conceptualized as a wheelchair-accessible taxicab, the ‘Standard Taxi,’ in 2005 by the previous owner,” according to the Mobility Ventures website. “It evolved into a multi-purpose vehicle — the MV-1 — and the first vehicle rolled off the assembly line in 2011.”