Mid Mon Valley Transit Authority adds buses, perks for customers

| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 12:05 p.m.

In the coming week, six new transit buses will be operating in the Valley.

The new 35-foot vehicles are a sign of the future of transit service. The buses might be the model for other buses purchased as the Mid Mon Valley Transit Authority eventually replaces its fleet, Executive Director Marc Roncone said.

The authority is striving to use technology to make transit service more user-friendly, Roncone said.

An Automated Voice Announcement System is one such feature on the new buses. When close to a stop, a GPS system will announce the next bus stop to passengers.

The feature brings the buses more in line with federal Americans with Disabilities Act regulations by taking the function out of drivers' hands.

For those who have ever been at a bus stop wondering when the next bus will arrive, the transit authority is introducing services to take away that frustration.

The Automatic Vehicle Location system will soon allow the public to utilize a web browser in a mobile setting to learn the distance out of the next transit bus. Roncone said this feature should be online in early 2014.

New signage at bus stops will contain telephone numbers and text numbers that prospective passengers can use to learn when the next route is passing through that neighborhood or block.

Passengers will also be able to register for email updates. If they ride a certain route daily, they can receive alerts if that route is affected by accidents, weather or other problems.

The new vehicles will increase the fleet to 34 buses. Two will be retired and two will be held in reserve for possible expansion, Roncone said.

The six Champion buses cost $297,000 apiece. The cost will be covered mainly with state and federal money. The buses are slightly shorter than those in the current fleet and have a capacity of 42 passengers, slightly more than the 37 to 39 that the current buses hold. All seats are forward facing. The new buses have four steps while some in the current fleet have none.

The new buses have luggage racks and individual reading lights and vents.

They will be used exclusively for Pittsburgh routes, because it will be easier to maneuver them in tight downtown streets.

“We got these six to see if we want to go to these more in the future,” Roncone said.

The authority last added to its fleet in 2009.

The authority is already looking to the future for its next bus purchase, Roncone acknowledged.

“Our next buses might not be diesel, but compressed natural gas (fueled),” Roncone said.

Roncone said the authority could utilize federal green energy money to convert its Donora bus garage to provide compressed natural gas for buses. He said natural gas prices are more stable than diesel prices.

“Our goal's to fuel our vehicles with fuel drilled right here in southwestern Pennsylvania,” Roncone said.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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