CROW WING COUNTY BOARD: Board approves larger public bus
A larger bus will soon join the public transit fleet in Crow Wing County following approval by the county board Tuesday. Transit coordinator Andy Stone told the board the larger bus would accommodate additional passengers from the Crosby area to St.
A larger bus will soon join the public transit fleet in Crow Wing County following approval by the county board Tuesday.
Transit coordinator Andy Stone told the board the larger bus would accommodate additional passengers from the Crosby area to St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School in Brainerd. Currently, the transit service transports 12 students from Crosby to the school, but an increase in ridership to 27 students would require a larger-capacity vehicle.
The vehicles in use now, 400-series buses, can transport 17 to 19 passengers, while the bus Stone requested, a 500-series bus, would seat up to 34 people.
Stone said between St. Francis students from Pequot Lakes and Crosby utilizing the buses and the general public, they have been forced to deny service at times.
"We can't service 100 percent of the requests on those two main corridors of commerce," he said, referring to highways 210 and 371.
Deb Euteneuer, principal of St. Francis, said the affected families were very appreciative of the consideration of a larger bus. She said the school has worked with Brainerd & Crow Wing Public Transit for eight years to transport students from around the county.
"Even with the increased cost, this is very beneficial for all the families," Euteneuer said.
Although a new vehicle was already accounted for in this year's budget, the cost of a larger bus is nearly twice as much. To offset the additional costs, Stone said there are plans to raise the fare from $1.50 to $2. With a commitment from St. Francis to guarantee 27 students, the fare increase would represent an increase in revenue of $10,221 over the previous year.
The additional revenue would cover 76 percent of the increase in the county's share compared to the cost of a smaller vehicle. The county shares the local costs of the transit service with the cities of Brainerd, Baxter and Pine River, while the rest is funded by grants from regional and state entities.
"The request of the board here is to see if that's a wise capital investment," Stone said. "The payback is about 1.3 years on a bus that will last us around seven years."
Commissioner Paul Thiede asked Stone how the lifespan of the larger bus compared to the vehicles in current use. Stone said the smaller vehicles are used for about 350,000 miles over 10 years.
"That's pushing it," Stone said. "The 500-series buses should be able to see that with more ease."
Thiede asked Stone what they would do should the larger bus break down, given the current fleet has replacements of the same size. Stone said they would not be able to accommodate all of the passengers, but the next opportunity to purchase a larger bus would be in 2020 and he expected the bus to run well during those five years.
"Would this create angst in my business life if it fails? Yes," Stone said.
His vision for the county, he said, is to continue increasing ridership along the corridors to Brainerd.
"Do we want to do it with cars, vans, 400- or 500-series buses?" Stone said. "Ten years down the road, maybe the county buses are all 500-series buses."
Chairman Paul Koering said the transportation advisory committee, which he serves on, recommended approval of the new bus.
Commissioner Rosemary Franzen moved to approve the bus, noting she would like to see a formal contract with St. Francis to ensure the costs would be covered. The motion passed unanimously.
CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 855-5874 or email@example.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .