Wilsonville’s public-transit agency, South Metro Area Regional Transit (SMART), has won a $320,000 grant award from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Agency (FTA) to purchase a new 31-passenger diesel bus. This most recent award is in addition to a 2014 FTA grant award of $638,000 that SMART received to purchase two more large-sized 31-passenger diesel buses that have recently been delivered and are to be put into service in the coming days.
In all, the two grant awards totaling just under $1 million allow the local transit agency to replace three older buses with three new lower-emission diesel buses. The most recent grant is to be used to replace a 16-year-old “high-floor” bus with a brand new more accessible “low-floor” bus that is closer to street level and easier for passengers to board. SMART plans to order the new “low floor” bus later this year and expects to receive delivery in 2018.
The federal grant awards cover the majority of the cost to purchase new buses, thereby leveraging relatively small amounts of local funds with substantial amounts of federal funds. SMART’s required matching contribution to purchase the three new buses is just under 14 percent of the total cost.
Congressman Kurt Schrader, who provided a letter of support for the grant request, said, “Public transit plays such an essential role in our communities, sometimes providing the only transportation option for many, including commuting workers and the elderly. Wilsonville’s SMART system is vital in connecting the Willamette Valley and Portland metro area. This grant will continue to expand and improve SMART’s ability to connect our communities and transport those who rely on public transit most.”
Mayor Tim Knapp stated that, “Wilsonville appreciates the support of members of the Oregon Congressional delegation, area legislators and local businesses to win this federal grant that allows us to maintain and improve service to transit riders. Many members of our community find our SMART system to be a helpful, practical way to access work, schools, shopping and services, and increased use of public transit helps reduce traffic and emissions. Reducing traffic can benefit the timely movement of freight and the overall health of our economy and environment.”
Transit Director Stephan Lashbrook said, “SMART appreciates federal support that underwrites the majority of costs to replace old buses with new U.S.-made buses that are more fuel-efficient, cleaner-burning and more dependable. Overall this FTA grant program is good for the economy and environment, as well as our riders and the local businesses that support SMART.”
During the most recent round of grant-making, the FTA Bus and Bus Facilities Grant Program funded 61 projects in 41 states, the Virgin Islands, and Indian Country, awarding nearly $211 million to replace, rehabilitate, and purchase transit buses and related equipment, and construct bus-related facilities. SMART is the only public transit agency in Oregon that received a grant from the current funding round of this FTA program.
Operated by the City of Wilsonville, SMART maintains a fleet of over 35 vehicles ranging from 40-foot buses to minivans and a trolley-bus. SMART also operates Dial-a-Ride, which provides door-to-door service within Wilsonville and medical transport services to Portland and other nearby cities for the elderly and disabled. SMART also operates an employer-outreach program that provides information on transit options for commuting workers. SMART transit services are free within Wilsonville, but intercity routes charge a fare. Almost 80 percent of SMART’s operating funds come from local employer-paid payroll tax, with most of the balance and the largest share of capital purchases funded by federal and state grants.