Santa Maria will pay about $645,000 to buy 17 used commuter buses for the Clean Air Express, saving an estimated $10 million over the cost of purchasing new buses, after the appropriation was approved Tuesday by the City Council.
The city will take the funds from its Transportation Development Act grant allocation and will be reimbursed by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, which operates the Clean Air Express.
Antelope Valley Transit Authority purchased the diesel-powered buses made by MCI using a Federal Transit Administration grant, which covered 80 percent of the cost for six of the buses and 100 percent of the other five, with the rest of the cost coming from local funds.
But now AVTA is converting its entire fleet to all-electric vehicles and selling the buses, which apparently have relatively low mileage and are in good shape, according to city staff, who noted SBCAG officials have inspected the vehicles and are satisfied with their condition.
Because Santa Maria also receives Federal Transit Administration grants, which SBCAG does not, the city can purchase the buses for just the depreciated amount of Antelope Valley’s share of the initial cost.
The city will then transfer ownership to SBCAG but, as the federal grantee, will provide federal oversight of their operation.
SBCAG will reimburse the city with funds from the Measure A countywide sales tax revenue agency uses to provide the Clean Air Express transit service between northern and southern Santa Barbara County.