TBTA waiting on arrival of hybrid buses

ALPENA – Delay in the delivery of four hybrid buses has thrown a monkey wrench into plans by Thunder Bay Transportation Authority to improve service.

The trolley-like buses, manufactured by Double K Inc., were expected in April. However, the authority is now hoping the first one will arrive January 2014, Prell Services General Manager and CFO Billi Edmonds saidy. Prell manages the city’s bus service.

“We’re beyond frustrated that there have been so many delays in this project,” Edmonds said. “The hybrid technology is wonderful for this area and we’re really excited to get them on the road to see how they produce.”

The buses, to be paid for by $2.59 million in federal grants, were sought because they were expected to consume 70 percent less fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent. According to the Crandon, Wis., company’s website, the vehicles also look like old-fashioned trolley cars and would fit in with the appearance of the city’s historic districts.

The buses also are a key part of TBTA’s plan to begin offering its customers fixed routes and schedules, Edmonds said. Customers living close enough to a bus stop could get around town easily. This would take pressure off Dial-A-Ride service, which would continue to transport people door-to-door on request.

One more issue TBTA had to juggle was that the 2009 funds came with a Sept. 30 expiration date, she said. Aware of pending production delays, TBTA officials went through the hurdles December 2012 of applying for more time. Then, they waited nine months, worrying they would lose access to the grants, Edmonds said.

“We had no guarantee,” she said.

On Aug. 22, the extension was granted, she said.

Friday also was frustrating because of 45-minute delays for service, which could have been alleviated by the hybrid buses, Edmonds said.

The reason was three-fold: it was raining. It was the end of the month and people were trying to get their Michigan Bridge Cards filled. It was also the last day before a long-holiday, and those without automobiles were trying to stock up on food and supplies, she said.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at blehndorff@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.