Chapel Hill Transit Director Brian Litchfield told the Chapel Hill Town Council on Wednesday it’s getting harder to maintain the agency’s aging fleet of buses.
“Back in 2007, the odds of you being on a bus that would break down while you were riding it were fairly small,” said Litchfield. “The odds today are pretty good.”
Transit officials estimate at least 42 buses need to be replaced. Thirty-seven of those are a model that hasn’t been manufactured since 2003, meaning requires more labor hours are required to maintain those vehicles and replacement parts are increasingly difficult to locate.
In the past, Chapel Hill Transit was able to draw down grant money to buy new vehicles. But federal earmarks have disappeared and state funding has dropped $1 million since 2010, leaving the transit partners scrambling to find new funding sources.
Litchfield said proceeds from the half-cent sales tax levied to support the Orange County Bus and Rail Plan will help. Chapel Hill Transit will collect $1.1 million in revenues from the tax, $180,000 of which will go to finance new three new buses.
“We have so many vehicles that need to be replaced that we have to do something, so there is some financing in there to do that,” said Litchfield.
The proposed transit budget for the next fiscal year totals $20.5 million, of which $13.5 million are local dollars. Carrboro will spend $1.4 million, Chapel Hill will spend $4.2 million, and UNC will contribute $7.7 million.
Litchfield says the partners are still working to finalize a long-term plan for sustainable transit funding which will be presented to the town in the fall.
The Council will consider Chapel Hill Transit’s funding request as part of the larger budget negotiations. A work session on next year’s budget is scheduled for Monday.