Transit bus in Bettendorf. (DOT photo)

Buying new buses and vans for the state’s public transit systems has become harder and more costly. DOT Public Transit director, Kristin Haar, says supply chain issues and pandemic related manufacturing problems caused some bus prices to go up and some contracts to get canceled.

Haar says the DOT worked with the vendors to renegotiate the costs and came up with more than six million dollars in extra funding to help. “Money that we had leftover due to contracts being closed out without having needed all of their previous funding, plus some other funds we had available to provide the transit agencies around the state with some extra money, so they wouldn’t have to come up with the shortfall on their own,” Haar says.

She says the average cost increase for a van or light-duty bus went up around 25%. They are helping 24 of Iowa’s transit systems buy 189 vehicles. Haar says it can take up to two years to get the new vans and buses delivered — which leads to more travel before one is replaced.

“Many more miles. Many of these buses that we’re talking about and providing funds for are far beyond their useful life,” Haar says. “And the transit agencies are really having to work on maintenance to keep these things going.” Haar says transit agencies aren’t the only ones waiting on vehicles.

“A lot of these buses use the same chassis as are used for pickup trucks, ambulances, and delivery vehicles. So therefore the vendors are having to compete with all of those other consumers who want those vehicles also. So we’re just in the queue waiting our turn for taxis to build these buses,” she says.

Haar can’t say if the problems will continue. “We’re not really sure if this is going to be ongoing — if the prices will remain at these levels, or if they’ll come back down — or if they’ll continue to increase,” according to Haar. “Yeah, we’re not really sure where everything’s going to fall.”

Haar says ridership dropped dramatically during the pandemic and has come back — but is not back to pre-pandemic levels.
Here are the cities or organizations that are getting the new buses and vans:
Ames, Burlington, Clinton, Coralville, Delaware, Dubuque, Jackson, East-Central Iowa Council of Governments,
Fort Dodge, heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency, Midas Council of Governments, Muscatine, North IA Area Council of Governments, Region 12 Council of Governments, Region Six Planning Commission, Regional Transit Authority Rides, River Bend Transit, Sioux City, Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission, Southern Iowa Trolley, SW Iowa Transit Agency, Ten-Fifteen Regional Transit System, U-I Cambus, Waterloo.