Fort Smith to buy six compressed natural gas powered transit buses

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 700 views 

Fort Smith will soon have a new fleet of compressed natural gas (CNG) buses in 2022. The Fort Smith Board of Directors approved an ordinance amending the 2021 operating budget to allow for extra funds needed to purchase large heavy duty CNG buses and to increase federal grant revenue projections.

Ken Savage, the city’s transit director, told the board that the joint procurement process between Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) and Fort Smith Transit identified Gillig LLC as the manufacturer for the buses and that transit staff has prepared the ordering specifications and received quotes from the manufacturer for the needed buses. The city will purchase six buses – four 40-foot buses and two 35-foot buses to serve the city.

“The manufacturer’s representative spent some time navigating our local streets when in town for the ordering phase and recommended acquiring 35-foot buses for the Midland and Grand fixed routes considering some of the narrow streets associated with those particular routes,” Savage said in the memo on the fleet.

The 40-foot buses cost $535,500 each and the 35-foot buses are $530,500 each. The board approved an additional $263,000 for the transit department’s 2021 budget to complete the bus fleet purchase and to reserve an additional $10,000 per pus for upgrades that might be identified during a pre-production meeting with the manufacturer. Staff will see a complete line up of buses at the plant during the pre-production meeting and will also see all latest product features available.

“Should staff determine upgrades are not necessary, the funds will be used to acquire spare parts that would enable just-in-time repairs,” Savage said in the memo.

The ordinance also approves a needed adjustment that increases federal grant revenues by about $1.7 million, Savage said. The Board approved the initial $3 million for six large heavy duty CNG buses in 2020.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the fleet of buses that will be hitting the streets. These are going to be really nice for the residents of Fort Smith,” Savage said.

The blue and white buses will feature two sets of doors, which Savage said will allow for less close interaction among those riding the bus.

“These buses will help all those riding be safer, especially during this (COVID-19) pandemic,” he said.