Spokane Transit Authority will receive $10.6 million in federal economic stimulus money, and plans to use most of the cash to buy 23 new buses, including 10 diesel-electric hybrids.
Using stimulus money to purchase buses will relieve pressure on the STA’s operating budget at a time when sales tax collections are declining, officials said.
The acquisition of new buses, including the hybrids, will reduce ongoing maintenance costs for older buses as well as save on fuel costs. The hybrids will also help cut emissions, said Molly Myers, communications manager for STA.
New buses are likely to be purchased from Gillig Corp., based in Hayward, Calif., she said.
Susan Meyer, chief executive officer for STA, said the bus acquisition will allow the agency to continue serving a growing ridership and redirect local funds that were being set aside for bus purchases toward operations.
“This is especially important while sales tax revenues, our primary source of funding, continue to drop,” Meyer said in a prepared statement.
Sales tax collections were down 3.4 percent in 2008 and declined by 8.8 percent in first two months of 2009, officials said.
At the same time, ridership last year was up 18 percent, with the increase continuing at an additional 5 percent in January and February.
In addition to buying buses, STA officials want to use the stimulus money for security, preventive maintenance and other items.
The government is requiring that STA move ahead with purchases within six months, and that they meet Federal Transit Administration requirements.
The STA board gave preliminary approval to the stimulus purchases at a meeting last week, Myers said.
A public hearing on the purchases and formal approval of the plan to spend the funds would come during the board’s next regular meeting on April 16 at 5:30 p.m. at Spokane City Hall.