Industry-leading maintenance program yields significant taxpayer savings
Imagine putting a million miles on your car. How about on a public transit bus? In the St. Louis, Missouri metropolitan region, Metro Transit has turned what may sound impossible into possible by logging one million miles on a bus — on the original engine without a major overhaul or a major breakdown.
This is not the first time Metro Transit has achieved this impressive milestone. This is the second bus maintained by Metro Transit’s industry-leading maintenance team to record more than a million miles on the odometer. This rare occurrence in the public transit industry means this second Metro Transit vehicle has logged the equivalent of 40 trips around the world over 17 years on the original engine and without a mid-life overhaul or significant mechanical issue.
“Metro Transit operates a fleet of 400 public transit buses for the St. Louis region, and through our award- winning vehicle maintenance program, these buses are running longer and covering more miles than ever before,” said Taulby Roach, president and CEO of Bi-State Development, which operates the Metro Transit system for the St. Louis region. “With just two of our 400 buses, we’ve traveled more than two million miles, connecting thousands of people to jobs, education, medical appointments, entertainment and sporting venues, and more. So just imagine the total impact of our entire fleet and the vital role it plays for our region’s mobility.”
The second Million-Mile Bus, which Metro Transit purchased and put into service in 2001, is a Gillig Phantom with a Cummins M11 engine. Metro Transit operated the bus in regular service throughout the bi-state region for eight years, recording 439,577 miles on it before it was purchased by one of Metro’s key transit partners, the St. Clair County Transit District. Since then, Metro Transit has operated the bus for the St. Clair County Transit District in St. Clair County in Illinois, where it logged more than 6,300 miles per month and approximately 75,940 per year.
“In 2000, the lifespan of our buses was around 12 years or 500,000 miles. Fast forward to 2019, and we now average 15 years and more than 800,000 miles, which far surpasses industry standards,” Jessica Mefford-Miller, executive director for Metro Transit, said.
Those remarkable results are the result of Metro Transit’s innovative maintenance program, which serves as a model for other transit systems across the United States and is internationally recognized, having garnered interest from transit companies in countries throughout the globe. The ability to maximize the life cycle of MetroBus vehicles and save millions of dollars in the process led to recognition from the Federal Transit Administration as a model for transit asset management.
Specifically highlighted in the July 26, 2016, edition of the Federal Register was a case study of Metro Transit’s industry-leading bus maintenance program. The case study focused on how Metro Transit has been able to extend the lifespan of buses by 25 percent and decrease the rate of breakdowns by 85 percent, resulting in service reliability for the customer and substantial cost savings for the taxpayer.
Metro Transit’s approach to preventative maintenance has resulted in significantly reduced capital expenses. Extending the operational lifespan of its buses has allowed Metro Transit to essentially purchase one bus to meet the same demands that other transit systems would need two or three buses to satisfy. These efficiencies help to ensure that taxpayer funds supporting public transit continue to be wisely invested, while continuing to provide reliable, on-time service to transit riders who depend on Metro Transit every day.
“We are extremely impressed with the talent and skills of the mechanics who work on the fleet at the Illinois MetroBus facility in East St. Louis,” Ken Sharkey, managing director of the St. Clair County Transit District, said. “Their dedication to finding creative solutions to maximize the investment made by taxpayers in St. Clair County really is to be commended.”
Metro Transit began an internal transformation to completely redesign the fleet maintenance program back in 2001, changing the focus from reactive to proactive preventative or predictive maintenance. That shift in focus has enabled Metro Transit to lead the transit industry in several performance, reliability and maintenance areas.
“As we celebrate the second bus to reach this milestone, the same innovative thinking that made it possible is guiding our planning for a new vision for public mobility in the bi-state area that aims to improve access to economic prosperity and enhanced quality of life,” Mefford-Miller said. “We are entrusted with one of the region’s most important responsibilities, connecting people to opportunity, and the creative redesign of the MetroBus network through our Metro Reimagined initiative will provide the shorter bus waits, faster bus trips and better transit connections that riders and the public said they wanted.”
The latest million-mile bus will now be moved to special service to transport baseball fans to Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis.