Coast RTA’s new CEO Brian Piascik wasted little time in securing newer used buses for a transit known for its aging fleet.
The Coast board gave Piascik the OK to purchase 10 used 40-foot transit coach buses from the Dallas Area Rapid Transit, or DART, for about $177,000, which includes transporting the buses, painting them, and for spare parts. One of Piascik’s top priorities since taking office in May, he said, was to update Coast’s failing fleet and build more public trust in the system.
“I think ideally it would be better if we could buy new buses, but that’s not in the budget,” Piascik said. “I knew that DART was replacing its fleet with compressed natural gas buses, and they had a few that weren’t at the end of their useful life. I talked with the vice president of maintenance there, who is a friend of mine, and it’s going to be huge.
“These buses are perfect for some of our longer haul routes, the Conway route and the Georgetown route. They’re what are called suburban buses. They have high back seats and luggage racks. They’re used for commuter buses. I actually used them when I was in Dallas.”
Piascik came from the Dallas area where he was a consultant with URS Corp. and worked specifically with DART. He is leveraging the fact that both DART and Coast receive federal funds for their buses, which means Coast is assuming the remaining federal life expectancy on the buses and paying DART the local match remaining on the buses. Some of the local matches remaining on the buses are as low as $5,000 per bus, Piascik said.
“I know we are getting buses that were taken care of and have a lot of highway miles on them rather than local city miles,” Piascik said. “These will give us a solid two years worth of life and then at the end of that, with engine rebuilds, we can keep them running.”
Piascik is using funds from the budget line items that would have been used to pay a chief executive officer in fiscal year 2015. Coast fired its CEO in April 2014, and its chief financial officer, Julie Norton-Dew, served as interim until her resignation in May. Piascik said he is using funds saved by not having a CEO, CFO and a chief operating officer, who is no longer with the company, to pay for the new buses.
Piascik said the buses may begin serving passengers as early as mid-July.
The plan is to purchase up to five buses during fiscal year 2015, which ends July 1, and the second round of buses purchased in fiscal year 2016 by the end of summer 2015.
Formal requests for proposal’s were not issued for these buses because they already had been purchased with federal monies, according to a press release issued by Coast.
As recently as October, Coast RTA customers were dealing with buses breaking down — sometimes two to three times per week — and some even reported the smell of gasoline while riding the transit.
Felicia Beaty, former chief operating officer, and a consultant sent by the Federal Transit Authority helped make breakdowns nearly obsolete, but the fleet was still old.
In 2013, the FTA issued a triennial review that examines 17 areas of a transit’s federal requirements, and the deficiencies ranged from not having an existing financial plan or vehicle maintenance plan to failing to submit required reports on time and having three buses sit unused for long periods of time.
Coast RTA has identified 16 buses in its fleet that date back to 1998 for disposal.
“As soon as this Friday,” Piascik said of starting to remove the old buses sitting in a parking lot near the transit’s Conway headquarters. “We’re trying to schedule that with the company that will take them away.”
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or on Twitter @TSN_JRodriguez.