Nashville’s city bus fleet has been described as aging and unreliable, but Metro transit officials say a rapid sequence of upgrades will soon make it one of the most modern in the country.
The turnaround will follow a $9 million federal grant that Nashville was awarded on Tuesday. The WeGo transit agency will combine that money with $4.5 million from state government and approximately $1 million from local sources to purchase about 20 new hybrid buses with state-of-the-art WiFi service.
WeGo Chief Executive Officer Steve Bland said Nashville already had plans to replace more than 50 buses, so the timing of this grant will help create one of the nation’s youngest bus fleets.
“Reliability is the key to this program, and replacing our fleet in a timely manner is important,” he said.
Taken together, the plans would mean about 40 percent of the city’s 175 buses could be replaced over four years. As recently as this summer, WeGo (formerly the Metro Transit Authority) was forced to reduce some routes because so many aging buses were breaking down and deemed unsafe.
Bland said old buses can also be four times more expensive to maintain, and that they are less fuel efficient.
Nashville was among 107 recipients of this federal bus funding, which officials described as “highly competitive.” Only about one in every three applicants were funded this year, prompting praise for WeGo from Toks Omishakin, a deputy commissioner with the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
“You guys have done a tremendous job … of consistently going after federal dollars,” he said, “and you have consistently brought those dollars back to Tennessee, including this case.”