MOTA replaces aging bus fleet

New buses purchased with grants, rates raised to cover operating costs

OSCEOLA COUNTY — The Mecosta-Osceola Transit Authority is always keeping an eye on the quality of its fleet.

Keeping pace with the growing use of public transportation in Mecosta and Osceola counties MOTA Excutive Director Ron Schalow determined it was time to replace its aging fleet of buses.

“Our maintenance department has done a spectacular job of keeping our fleet in a state of good repair and on the county roads,” Schalow said, “but each vehicle has a lifespan and you need to be adding new buses to the fleet on a regular basis.”

There are six new gold-colored buses operating in the fleet, with a plan to add two more buses by the end of the year. Each bus was purchased for approximately $125,000 each by capital grants.

MOTA receives funding from federal and state levels; one is operating funds and the other capital grants, Schalow said.

“The operating funds pay for salaries, wages, fuel, maintenance and so forth,” Schalow said. “Though the operating is kind of stagnate and we have to live with that, larger purchases can be obtained through grants. I am continually applying for those.”

Operating monies have essentially been flat across state and federal governments for a number of years, he said. Monthly funding from the state is more than $26,000 and federal funding comes quarterly.

“Our primary source of funding is state levels,” Schalow said. “Federal funding fluctuates. I don’t have the exact number right now, but it is significantly less.”

Because the funding for operations has not increased MOTA raised its transportation rates on May 1. The new fares are $5 for adults and $2.50 for seniors, children and people with disabilities.

“It is the first fare increase since we began operations as MOTA in 2005,” Schalow said. “Due to rising costs, especially with fuel we had to raise our rates, because the state funding has remained the same.”

The new buses are considered a medium-duty bus and have composite style material in the back to prevent them from rusting like the old bluebird buses that were replaced.

“The old buses were quite rusty,” Schalow said. “They were mechanically sound, safe to drive and safe to ride in, but they looked terrible. They had been running for a long time and some of them had more than 400,000 miles.

“It was time to replace the buses. The new buses are durable and well-adapted to the needs of public transportation.”

When a rider boards the new bus they are greeted by a white interior, with bright blue seats, a black floor and the larger windows give the rider an open-air feeling, Schalow said.

“The appearance is fresher,” he said. “There is a brighter, fresher feel on the bus.”

A six-camera video system that records audio with video at multiple angles is an added safety feature.

“The system is a good thing,” Schalow said. “We know how the operator is driving bus. We also know how the passengers and operators are interacting with each other.”