Twelve new buses — with a total price tag of $8.1 million — were formally introduced to the streets of Champaign-Urbana on Tuesday.
The 40-foot, near-zero-emission, diesel-electric hybrid buses cost more to purchase but less to operate and are cleaner and quieter than traditional diesel buses, said Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District Managing Director Karl Gnadt.
“There’s quite a benefit to the community in which we operate. That is why we do this. That is why we pay a little extra money for the hybrid bus because the return on investment is there financially, and it’s also in community benefits,” he said.
Sixty percent of the MTD fleet (111 buses) now are diesel-hybrid, Gnadt said, and by the end of 2017, about 77 percent of the fleet will be.
Eighteen more new buses are expected in May, paid for with 65 percent state dollars and a 35 percent local share. They will replace 18 2003-vintage buses.
The new coaches now on local streets cost between $577,000 and $618,000 apiece, Gnadt said. They were paid for entirely with federal money.
“The reason for the difference is that three buses are replacement buses, and nine were expansion buses. We had some equipment for some that we had to order, and then we didn’t have to get them for the others,” he said.
The buses unveiled Tuesday for the first time include components made at the Clifford-Jacobs Forging Co. north of Champaign.
“We’re able to participate in a pledge by MTD to improve their environmental promise to the community and to help keep jobs right here in Champaign, Illinois, and we’re also helping our environment by supplying forgings through a new technology that will help us to improve our carbon footprint,” said Jason Ray, general manager at Clifford-Jacobs. “We could not be happier to serve in this capacity.”
Bud Kinney, a vice president at Clifford-Jacobs, said it’s likely the company will be involved in supplying parts for the next MTD bus order.
“This has been successful,” Kinney said. “What’s fun about this is that traditionally we make forgings but in this case we offered a complete, fully finished part. It involved more local resources and local contractors. For us, it added more jobs and brought more value.”
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, who attended the event at the MTD garage in east Urbana, said he was glad to participate in a “partnership actually positively affecting the citizens of Champaign-Urbana.”
The nine new buses were manufactured in Minnesota and include USB ports, front-end bike racks and low-floor entries to make them more accessible to people with disabilities.