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A man exits a bus Tuesday on Frederick Avenue. Transit will be offering free rides on Thursday to celebrate the national Dump the Pump Day, and expects to see an increase of 5 or 10 percent in ridership for that day.

How many riders per route? (FY2015)

The City of St. Joseph has applied for a federal grant to assist with the purchase of new buses.

However, several factors indicate the current fleet will be in circulation for a little while longer. Transit General Manager Mary Gaston said there is no guarantee that federal money will be granted for the purchase. She said a transportation act that ended last year had "very few federal dollars" for cities of St. Joseph's size. 

The Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST) passed last December, and allocated more funds to public transportation in the 2016 fiscal year, which gave the city hope that federal funds may be a possibility.

"(FAST) does seem to have a little bit more funding in it for capital projects for small urban cities like ours," Gaston said. "We have applied for a grant, whether we'll get anything or not remains to be seen."

At a May 5 budget work session, City Manager Bruce Woody proposed budgeting $4.5 million for new buses and said if the budget passes the city would be purchasing buses whether federal funding came in or not. He said purchases like these are usually 70 percent funded by federal dollars.  

“If we receive grant funding next year, then that $4.5 million will probably allow us to buy as many as 12 buses,” Woody said previously. “If we don’t receive grant funding and we have to pay the full price of the bus, it might be that we only buy four or five of them next year.”

The 30-foot buses cost around $375,000 a piece, but Gaston said the bigger buses are more affordable in the long run.

"We buy heavy duty transit buses because they last a long time," Gaston said. "The 30-foot buses that we have are small in the transit industry for fixed route service, they're the shortest of the heavy duty transit vehicles. We buy them because they last a long time and we get a really good bang for our buck for them that way."

Currently there are 20 of the 30-foot buses in the city's fleet, 18 of which are at or above their expected lifespan.

According to Gaston, transit is expecting a 1 percent increase in ridership this year. A trial deal with Missouri Western State University that allows students and employees to ride for free started at the beginning of this fiscal year and may have contributed to the increase.

By the end of the fiscal year (June 30) Gaston is predicting a total of 415,000 riders since last June.

She said the most popular routes have been route 13 on Frederick Avenue, route 14 on Faraon and Jules streets and route 15 which goes to Missouri Western State University.

Transit will be offering free rides on Thursday to celebrate the national Dump the Pump Day, and expects to see an increase of 5 or 10 percent in ridership for that day.

Brendan Welch can be reached at brendan.welch@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWelch.