The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority has landed a $6.3 million federal grant for 17 new diesel-powered buses, a boost for the agency's aging bus fleet.
The RTA was one of more than 100 agencies nationwide chosen to get grants under a Federal Transit Administration program that helps states and transit agencies replace buses and bus barns.
The government awarded $366 million total in the 2018 fiscal year. Federal officials received applications this year from more than 250 agencies, totaling $2 billion in requests.
RTA officials announced the grant Tuesday, calling it a big win for an authority that hasn't done a widespread fleet replacement since just after Hurricane Katrina.
"This is something we’ve all worked toward," said Justin Augustine III, a vice president of Transdev, the French conglomerate that manages the RTA's operations. Augustine acts as the RTA's general manager.
The money comes after the RTA had tried and failed before to gain money for more buses, and after Transdev had considered going in a different direction.
Transdev sought about $20 million in the 2017 fiscal year from the same bus-replacement program, but lost out. In July, the company recommended that the RTA board pursue eight electric buses, at a cost of $9 million.
But the board decided against that, instead opting to pursue less costly diesel-powered buses. That will allow the RTA to buy more buses more quickly, at a time when many of its more than 130 buses are nearing the end of their useful lives, board Chairman Flozell Daniels said.
Buses are typically good for about 12 years; the average age of the RTA's buses is 8½ years.
Augustine said the agency won't retire all of its oldest buses immediately; rather, it could run older and newer buses alongside each other until the older buses have reached the 12-year mark.
"I would think that we want to have as many vehicles in an active state as possible, to deal with all the active requests in the strategic mobility plan," Augustine said.
The RTA's long-range strategic plan calls for the agency to begin overhauling its bus fleet by 2021, replacing older vehicles with newer ones and adding more vehicles in general.