Port Arthur Transit Department adds another electric bus; updates millions in investment

Published 12:38 am Thursday, December 2, 2021

The City of Port Arthur Transit Department is working on more than $3.6 million in projects to improve public transportation — from adding to the number of buses to working on several drainage projects that will improve flooding in high-risk areas.

Ivan Mitchell, transit director, updated City Council this week on a number of projects in the works, as well as a status on those that have been completed.

“As of now, we’ve completed about $13 million worth of capital projects over in the transit department,” Mitchell said. “A lot of things were old and needed to be updated, so we’ve made the effort to get things updated and renewed. I think we’re on a good track as of completing items. A lot of funds for these items have been reimbursed by the federal government.”

Completed initiatives from April 2020 to present included terminal renovation, a new maintenance building, new maintenance equipment, construction at the library bus stop, demolition of the maintenance building and the acquisition of 10 electric buses.

While a lot of the aforementioned projects were paid for by grants, Mitchell said some included a partial match from city funds.

The new electric buses, he added, have had a positive impact on riders and operators.

“The residents seem to like them,” he told council members. “They think they look good. They think they’re nice and quiet. They think they’re a very smooth ride. Our operators have not complained. They now always want that specific bus. So I think overall we purchased a really good product that should be in the city for years to come.”

Work will begin soon to ensure all city bus stops are on pavement in order to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Monique Batson/The News)

The lifespan of the buses is 10 years.

But they do intend on purchasing another by September 2022. The cost will be $800,000, a portion of which will come from grant money supplied by Entergy Texas specifically for the purchase of an electric bus.

Councilman Thomas Kinlaw questioned the need for the new bus, as the city operates 10 on six routes.

Mitchell answered with a variety of reasons, saying the 11th bus ultimately would serve as a reserve.

“We operate 13 hours a day,” he said. “Depending on the weather, the driver, the road conditions; some buses can last 13 hours on a single charge. Some days that bus might not. So we have to have buses in reserve to switch out, otherwise (one) will die in the road.”

Also on the list of current projects are parking lot construction, a new storage building, drainage improvement in certain places downtown, bus stop construction and the addition of benches at bus stops.

The stop at the library has three recently installed metal benches for those waiting; however, it does not include a cover.

Mayor Pro Tem Donald Frank said he’s received questions from residents regarding bus stop covers.

Mitchell said there are no plans to add a cover to the library bus stop, as the cost of one shelter is the same as 15 benches; therefore the transit department is looking at adding additional seating instead.

“One of the considerations you’re going to have to have is you have benches for people to sit, but they’re not going to sit in the rain,” Frank said. “So I think we’re going to have to have those considerations made as we’re talking about benches and covers for those benches.”

Mitchell said all options are on the table.

Future projects include a potential smart card fare system, LED lighting, replacing carwash components and landscaping.

The city transit system operates Mondays through Fridays from 6:15 a.m. to 7:15 p.m., and on Saturdays from 7:15 a.m. to 7:15 p.m.

The standard rate is $1.50 one way and $3.50 for a day pass, however rates differ for children, senior citizens, disabled individuals, etc.