Texas State will receive a new fleet of buses in the fall, but students and administrators say the trams currently servicing the university are showing symptoms attributed to operating past their life spans.
First Transit, the university’s bus provider, will remain responsible for the current fleet until Veolia Transportation takes over the Bobcat Tram services in August, according to a Nov. 20 University Star article. The contract with Veolia includes a fleet of 43 new buses.
Nancy Nusbaum, interim director of Transportation Services, said the majority of Texas State’s buses are “well past their youthful life.”
“They are getting older and older, and we are going to have more problems with them than we want,” Nusbaum said. “So new buses are the only way to go at this point.”
Buses have a life span of about 10 years and around 500,000 miles, and some Texas State trams are well over that limit, said Bill, a bus driver who did not want to disclose his last name.
“It’s a miracle they kept them running as long as they have,” he said. “Every day there’s something new. It is getting a little annoying.”
All of the stops the trams make create more wear and tear and are hard on the engines, tires, brakes and transmission, the bus driver said.
First Transit owns all but two of the buses operated by the university and has mechanics on staff to maintain them, Nusbaum said.
Bill said First Transit is having a hard time keeping mechanics on staff because larger companies can offer them higher salaries. The First Transit mechanics have been “miracle workers” because they have adapted older buses to make them work, despite a lack of parts.
“One of the major costs and problems with running old equipment is it starts to cost more and more and more every year because parts become more and more scarce and unavailable,” Bill said.
It is First Transit’s responsibility to maintain the buses so they can keep them operating, otherwise penalties are charged, Nusbaum said.
Every time a bus misses one lap of a route after breaking down, it costs the university $300, Bill said.
First Transit is required under its contract to maintain a “safe, reliable fleet,” and that is what the university expects until Veolia takes over, said Steven Herrera, shuttle services manager for Texas State.
Some students have expressed concerns related to air conditioning, signage and other operational issues on the buses.
“Sometimes the signs don’t work,” said Kelsey Groch, exercise and sports science sophomore. “They have to use a paper sign in the window, and you can’t really tell unless you literally walk all the way up to the bus to see if it is your route or not.”
David Gelgor, undeclared junior, said he has ridden several buses that do not have air conditioning or contained torn or damaged seats. He described the buses as “nearly falling apart.”
“Some of them are beat up,” said Robert Castorena, electrical engineering sophomore. “The current contractor provides buses that are not all pristine, to say the least.”