Freedom Transit gets new buses

Katie Anderson
Observer Reporter

Washington County Transit Authority will have two new buses within two weeks, as part of a five-year purchasing contract it entered years ago.

Joseph Thomas, director of fixed-route services for Freedom Transit, addressed Washington City Council Monday to inform them of a new 30-foot bus they received last week and another on its way. He said these are the first two of five new buses the authority will receive as part of a purchasing consortium contract they entered with Federal Transit Administration grant funds in 2015.

Thomas said the two Gillig buses will replace two 2005 buses that are “beyond their useful life.” Within Freedom Transit’s fleet of 10 buses, two others, built in 2009, also might need to be replaced soon, he said.

“Depending on the size of them, 10 years is about what you get out of these buses,” he said.

The third bus is expected in 2019, and the last two in following years, Thomas said. The buses cost about $401,000 each, 80 percent of which is funded through FTA grants. The other 20 percent is expected to come from a state and local match, Thomas said. He said the city has a transit fund from selling old transit vehicles that could be used toward the local match.

Because the purchasing contract predated the merger between Washington City Transit and the county transit authority in September 2015, the city has to allocate the FTA grant money when it comes in, Thomas said. The city is expected to vote on the funding at its Thursday meeting.

Thomas said the initial two new buses won’t affect current routes as they are “not expanding the fleet, just replacing the old buses.” He said as the other three buses come in, if the authority has excess vehicles, it might consider opening an additional route. He said the authority is in the planning process to see if it will provide an additional route and where it would be needed.

Freedom Transit currently has three fixed routes – the Metro, from Washington through Canonsburg and into downtown Pittsburgh; the County Line, from Washington past The Meadows Casino and into McDonald; and a local route in the city of Washington and neighboring townships.