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GPTC bus driver Andrea Davis with rider Ruth A. Johnson

Fleet and facility investments are keys to GPTC bottom line

Contributed By:The 411 News

New electric vehicles and paratransit vans, new space for bus drivers

There is nothing like being appreciated for the work you do and that was one of the highlights at the Gary Public Transportation Corporation's recent Fall Summit.

The regional bus system hosted the summit to announce investments in its fleet and facilities that will support and grow commuter services.

Appreciation came from Ruth A. Johnson, a disabled rider who has lost the use of an arm. Outdoors, a tote cart helps Johnson get around with packages. She uses the system's dial-a-ride paratransit and fixed-route services.

"I believe I'm here today because of these bus drivers. They are kind, caring, and thoughtful," Johnson said. The bus drivers help her with getting on and off the bus. "They have allowed me to be independent. I'm not in a nursing home yet. I'm not in hospice. I really appreciate GPTC bus drivers. They have been a blessing to me."

Paratransit services will no longer be "just an afterthought," said David Wright, GPTC's Planning and Marketing Director. It's the first service area targeted for improvements with 3 new dial-a-ride vehicles set for delivery in December.

"When they hit our property this year, we will be relaunching our paratransit service as Access 219. There will be some technology changes in-house. It's a new brand. It is regional transit, dial-a-ride, paratransit, and demand response with its own name," Wright said.

GPTC is adding 7 new fixed-route buses to its fleet; expected to arrive in May or June of 2022. Four of the buses are electric. They will be primarily used on the Broadway Metro Express route.

"If all goes well, we will make the entire fleet electric," Wright said. "We know we're going to save money because electric vehicles are cheaper to operate than diesel operated."

Changes are coming to the bus shelters with an emphasis on replacing damaged shelters, removing some shelters, and adding new ones. GPTC is in the process of identifying manufacturers, Wright said, but will use Gary-based vendors for the installations.

GPTC will build a new facility at 20th and Broadway for bus drivers, To give them more breathing space on breaks and before starting shifts. Wright said a state-of-the-art facility has been in the plans for awhile. Now funds are in place to get started on it.

"This will be their own space. It will be much cleaner. There will be additional administrative meeting space and public access space for commuters on the BMX and other routes," Wright said. The design work will start in 2022.

Wright said he was not sure of the timeframe and couldn't make any promises on when it will start, "but it's on the books."

GPTC driver Andrea Davis thanked Johnson for coming to the summit to show her appreciation.

"I love to feed the birds. The sacks are big, but the bus drivers look out for me," Johnson said.

Story Posted:11/20/2021

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