Newer buses rolling out

Newer buses rolling out
TRI-CITIES, Wash. - Ben-Franklin Transit buses aren't exactly sleek.

David rides the bus daily. He knows the older buses break down a lot. He said, "It's never happened to me but I see them getting towed a lot."

The boxy, aging fleet is getting an upgrade. BFT rolled out a dozen new models last month. It bought the buses from Sound Transit in Seattle for just a buck a piece.

It was a similar deal to a previous purchase which brought the white buses with the waves here. It was a win-win, allowing one company to off-load while another benefits. BFT relies on these deals since its dying fleet costs more to repair than the buses are worth.

Recycling old models brings in up to $2000 per bus, that goes back into the operating budget. Besides the dollar buses, BFT hopes to use federal money to buy brand-new models. The goal is to replace buses every year, not wait for them to break down.

Upgrading the fleet has been a long time coming. It's been almost about five years since any new buses went into service and now that BFT has got that taken care of they're looking at other ways they can improve the program.

Transportation planners are also taking a closer look at the entire bus line.

Christy Watts with Ben Franklin Transit said, "Deciding what the community needs, where the service needs to go before we start expanding hours too, because it might make more sense to extend service demographically than it would be later into the evening."

This is exactly what riders like David are looking for.

"Lower the fares, extend the line, extend the hours of service. Actually I hope to go back to driving," he said.

Until he can he can continue to depend on BFT.

BFT will unveil a new electric bus this Spring that will run three times longer than a diesel engine bus on a single charge.

This project is being paid with grant money as a test model for future bus models across the country.