Springfield planning to use $1.3 million in COVID money to purchase public transit buses

Riders get on and off the SCAT buses Friday at the bus center in downtown Springfield. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

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Riders get on and off the SCAT buses Friday at the bus center in downtown Springfield. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

The City of Springfield is looking to replace aging buses used for public transportation by using up to $1.3 million in grant funding rewarded last year.

Springfield officials want to use grant money awarded amid the coronavirus pandemic for the purchasing of five medium-duty buses, two support vehicles as well as shop equipment. Those purchases will be utilized by the Springfield City Area Transit (SCAT).

The money would come from the Fare Collection Equipment Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in which $2.8 million, using federal coronavirus pandemic relief funds, was awarded to the city early on in the pandemic.

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The grant money is to be used for transportation services as well as other associated costs such as operating expenses and preventative maintenance.

SCAT has 21 vehicles that support seven fixed-routes and provides daily services. The city has a contract with the company First Transit to provide those services.

In regards to replacing five buses being used in the fleet, a request to use existing grant money is being sent for approval to the FTA , said Logan Cobbs, the assistant to the Springfield city manager.

She said once the FTA approves the application on how those funds will be used by the city, that money will be allocated towards the purchasing of new buses, replacing some currently used by SCAT.

Springfield City Commissioners approved an amendment to the Fare Collection Equipment Grant Agreement during a recent public meeting that would allow that process to go forward.

Cobbs said that allows the city to send an application to the federal agency to get approval to allocate grant funds for the purchasing of the new vehicles and equipment.

Springfield City Manager Bryan Heck said during the meeting “we would hope in 2021. But we have certainly seen supply chain issues involving all purchases due to (the coronavirus pandemic). We are not certain the total length of time it will take for us to actually take (the new buses) into possession.”

He made that comment in response to a question regarding when the purchasing of those buses and other vehicles would occur and when those items would be added to the fleet utilized by SCAT.

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Public transportation services have remained relatively uninterrupted amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, preventative safety measures have been put in place in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

The includes increasing the amount of personal protective equipment worn by drivers as well extra sanitation efforts. Social distancing measures have also been implemented inside transportation vehicles.

Cobbs said that the pandemic did cause a dip in those services being used last year. That decrease was reflected in monthly fare revenue collected between March and April. That number saw a dip from $13,200 to $5,700 between those months.

However, Cobbs said there was an increase in residents utilizing those services later in 2020 as portions of Ohio’s economy began gradually reopening amid the pandemic.


By the numbers:

21 - Number of vehicles utilized by the Springfield City Area Transit

5 - Number of buses the city is looking to buy using COVID relief money

$1.3 million - Amount of grant money planned to be used to purchase new buses and other vehicles

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