East Baton Rouge Parish’s public bus system received the first of six new full-size buses Tuesday to replace part of its aging fleet after an 18-month process, the Capital Area Transit System’s general manager said.

The other five buses are expected to arrive within the next few weeks, said Carol Cranshaw, CATS’ general manager.

The CATS board of directors approved the purchase of an additional 35-foot diesel bus and trolley bus at a Tuesday meeting.

All the buses are fully funded by federal stimulus money dedicated to capital purchases, Cranshaw said.

Many of CATS’ buses have exceeded their normal 12-year life span and have more than 500,000 miles on them, Cranshaw said.

Receiving the bus and trolley approved Tuesday will take another 16 months, CATS Chief Executive Officer Brian Marshall said.

The additional vehicles were requested because some of the buses and other capital expenditures paid for with federal grants came in under budget, leaving CATS with additional grant money, Cranshaw said.

The buses cost $345,000 each, Cranshaw said.

Earlier this year, CATS also received three trolley buses used mostly for downtown routes, which cost $207,000 each.

City resident S.B.A. Zaitoon attended the meeting and asked the CATS board why it was buying large expensive buses rather than gas-efficient, less expensive vans that could run more frequent routes.

CATS board member Jared Loftus said he had the same concerns before joining the board.

“What I’ve since learned is that if we have five vans instead of one bus, that’s five vans with five salaries and five benefits packages we have to pay for,” Loftus said.

CATS has 58 full-length buses, and 12 vans for the CATS On Demand service, a door-to-door service for disabled customers, Cranshaw said.

The Federal Transit Authority caps fleet size for public bus companies based on the scope of service provided, Cranshaw said, meaning CATS will have to get rid of old buses to make room for the new vehicles.