An early morning fire Tuesday (Jan. 10) in the bus canopy of Ozark Regional Transit (ORT) in Springdale has depleted the bus fleet and will affect ORT’s ability to maintain bus routes for the near future.
According to ORT public information officer Jeff Hatley, 20 buses were destroyed and four buses survived the fire. Two of the four surviving buses were undergoing maintenance at the time of the fire and will be placed back in service in the coming days. One bus was shielded from the fire by another bus and another was still in route at 2 a.m. Tuesday morning. These two buses will be in service today as the new Commuter Express route and the Route 65 in Springdale.
All minivans survived the fire and will be in service, Hatley said.
ORT will attempt to accommodate as many passengers as possible with the reduced number of buses, Hatley said, but all services are subject to interruption, rescheduling and/or cancellation. More information will be provided as it becomes available.
“We ask for patience and understanding as we work diligently to recover from this incident,” Hatley said in a statement.
A message on the ORT website said all fixed routes will be out of service until further notice. ORT has four fixed routes in Fayetteville, five in Springdale, two in Rogers and one in Bentonville.
It also has two express route bus services – one is an hourly route between Fayetteville and Bentonville which is free for NorthWest Arkansas Community College students, and a 90-minute route between West Fork and Lincoln, which connects multiple communities in Northwest Arkansas.
ORT Executive Director Joel Gardner said transit systems throughout the state and the country are offering assistance.
One transit system has a few 12-seat vans immediately available for ORT’s use. They will be immediately placed on routes that typically have fewer passengers, tentative upon the vehicles being mobilized to Northwest Arkansas. Another transit system is currently in their slower, winter season, meaning fewer routes and fewer passengers. It may also be able to provide buses temporarily.
Hatley said ORT”s goal is to have nine of the 20 buses lost replaced by mid-week next week, and 14 buses replaced in two weeks.
While public transportation services are restored, ORT will operate on reduced routes similar to those during inclement weather. As new buses are added to the fleet, more services and amenities will be brought back online.
Due to previously purchased bus passes not being fully honored, January passes will be honored additionally for February, Hatley said.