Originally created 09/18/97

Aiken to get new buses



AIKEN - Thanks to a combination of local, state and federal money, the Aiken County Transit Commission will replace two of its three buses.

The commission announced during its Wednesday meeting it received confirmation of money it needed from the Federal Transit Administration to make the purchase.

The commission will have $120,000 at its disposal, $60,000 for each bus, Aiken County Transit Manager Jochen Ewing said. This includes money for a paint job and wheelchair installation.

Mr. Ewing said he hopes to purchase the buses in three to four months. Because money from the Federal Transit Administration is involved, there are a lot of procedures to follow.

"We have to buy American," he said. "Once we decide on a vendor, I have to visit the factory. Fifty-five percent of the steel must be American."

The new buses are expected to last for seven years and 200,000 miles. They will seat around 24 people, the same as the current buses. It was better to keep the same size instead of buying larger buses, Mr. Ewing said.

"We don't want to have a 40-person bus empty and the city council standing outside saying, `Why is there no one on this bus?"' he said.

The county bus system is carrying more riders than last year. According to commission figures, 2,836 people rode public buses in August - 677 more than in August 1996. So far this year, 5,175 people have used the buses, which is an increase of 1,124 over this same period last year.

No one knows the exact cause of the increase in riders, said Muriel David, the county transit assistant who prepared the figures.

The commission plans to replace the third bus eventually. The commission might want to keep one of the old buses for occasional use because "there are other things we could use it for besides backup," Mr. Ewing said.

The current county buses have mechanical problems due to high mileage. The problems involve brakes and air conditioning, he said.