In the News

Federal grant to buy new Topeka Metro buses

Topeka Capital-Journal | Tim Hrenchir

A nearly $5 million federal grant award made public Tuesday will enable the Topeka Metro bus service to take steps that include replacing seven buses in its aging fleet.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., announced the U.S. Department of Transportation had awarded the grant totaling $4,987,500 to Topeka Metro from its Buses and Bus Facilities Grant Program for Fiscal Year 2020.

“With the funding we receive from this grant, Topeka Metro will be able to improve our operations by replacing a portion of our aging bus fleet, while also investing in technology to enhance communication with our bus operators,” said Topeka Metro general manager Bob Nugent.

Moran said in a news release that the money will be used to add seven diesel buses to Topeka Metro’s fleet, install solar-power signage displays and take steps to safeguard against electrical failure.

A letter in support of Topeka Metro’s application for the grant was written in March by Moran, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation and Community Development.

Moran also wrote a letter in support last year of what turned out to be Topeka Metro’s successful application for a nearly $1.74 million federal grant awarded in July 2019 to help it acquire three environmentally friendly electric buses.

In last March’s letter of support for the grant announced Tuesday, Moran wrote: “While Topeka Metro is working on the implementation of electric buses, they must also maintain a fleet of diesel buses while undergoing this transition.”

Moran’s letter of support added that public transit needs to protect itself from such concerns as power outages and natural disasters.

“With these funds, Topeka Metro will be able to provide an electric utility redundant connection for resilience to electrical failure so operations can continue and buses can be charged,” he wrote. “This program will also allow for solar-powered signage displays to be installed to assist customers without internet capabilities.”

Nugent said Topeka Metro was pleased to “once again partner with Evergy to provide improved service in our community.”

He said Topeka Metro has 26 large, fixed-route buses, of which 16 came out in 2011.

“Under FTA regulations we must get 12 years of service out of buses before being replaced,” Nugent said. “Of those 16 we have a grant to replace three with electric buses and today’s announcement is for a grant to replace seven more with diesel buses. We will not receive new buses until 2023.”