Fort Smith Transit working with ArDOT to obtain CNG buses

August 30, 2019. Fort Smith Transit is working to ensure riders have the best experience possible and there is plenty of room for passengers.

   Transit Director Ken Savage told the Board of Directors on Tuesday of a program with the Arkansas Department of Transportation to get larger transit buses, which are typically exceeding the 18-passenger capacity.

   “This is the first time ArDOT has agreed to be in charge of this,” Savage said. “This involves other area transit programs, and it gives us an opportunity to maybe get a cost break for buying larger quantity buses.”

   There is about $850,000 of unspent federal grant money to go toward the buses. The local contribution would be around $150,000 for a total of $1 million for two 27-passenger buses.

   The buses have better air conditioning, can be configured to allow passengers to enter from the bus stop and exit the vehicle at the same time. These are also designed with ramps and a “kneeling” feature to lower the side of the bus near the curb, which makes it easier for residents with disabilities or other mobility devices to enter and exit. They are also easier to maneuver than the smaller ones being used, Savage said.

   Like most of the buses used now, the new buses would be fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG). These would be able to run all day without refueling, Savage said. CNG has also proven to be more economically and environmentally friendly.

   The department should have its own CNG fueling station at the department headquarters in the coming months. Last year, the board approved a contract to build a city-owned fueling station.

   According to the agenda packet, the city would purchase two 35-foot buses in October 2020, the first year of the contract. These would be delivered within 540 days.

   Two additional orders in October 2021 and 2022 — to be delivered within 420 days of the order date — for a total of six buses, or one on each fixed route. The board would need to approve contract years two and three.