Tuesday, March 10
BRATTLEBORO -- Patrons of a pair of transit agencies in southern Vermont might find themselves riding new buses soon courtesy of the Economic Recovery Act.

With a number of public transit buses in Vermont in need of replacement, the $5.7 million expenditure proposed by the Vermont Agency of Transportation will help the state buy 33 new buses, said AOT spokesman John Zicconi.

"We have a backlog of 41 buses that meet our criteria for replacement that we have been unable to afford," he said.

It's not yet known if the Legislature will approve AOT's request to spend the money on new buses.

"There are other things public transit money could be used for," said Zicconi, such as updating or repairing public transit facilities. "Our proposal is to spend all the money on the buses."

When the Legislature returns from its two-week recess, he said, it needs to make its decision quickly. Other states will also be looking to purchase new buses, so it's important that the state gets its order in to prevent delivery delays, said Zicconi.

If all goes as planned, Connecticut River Transit will get two buses -- a 40- and a 14-seater -- and the Deerfield Valley Transit Authority will get two 34-seater buses.

Randy Schoonmaker, executive director of DVTA, said his agency had applied for the new buses, but has not yet heard back on whether its request would be granted.

"In our line of business, we wait until we get the grant agreement.


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DVTA operates 22 buses, from 14-seaters up to 34-seaters.

Ridership on DVTA vehicles has increased 15 percent in just the past few months, and the agency has had to schedule extra buses to meet peak demands.

Two new buses won't be enough to meet the DVTA's needs, said Schoonmaker.

"We have capital needs for more than the two buses."

Nonetheless, he's not looking a gift horse in the mouth.

"Anything we get from the stimulus package would be a bonus. We would be very grateful to get anything out of the ordinary."

The $5.7 million is part of $126 million the state is getting for transportation needs, said Rep. Mollie Burke, P-Brattleboro, a member of the House Transportation Committee.

"Everyone agrees there is a need for more public transit in Vermont," she said, but the state's rural nature makes it hard to connect with everybody who needs transportation.

Having new, environmentally friendly buses might mean some of Vermont's transit agencies will be able to extend their lines, said Burke.

"This is a good use of stimulus funds," she said.

Another $700,000 has been set aside for rehabilitating buses, wooden bus shelters constructed by Vermont companies and vehicles for seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Nationwide, the bill provided $10.1 billion for the Federal Transit Administration.

Other Vermont transit agencies aided by this funding include Advance Transit, Addison County Transit Resources, Green Mountain Community Network, Green Mountain Transit Agency, Marble Valley Regional Transit District, Rural Community Transit, Special Services Transportation Agency and Stagecoach Transportation Services.

No new buses are planned for the Brattleboro Beeline, said Zicconi.

"The equipment at the Bee is in good shape and doesn't qualify for the replacement list," he said.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.