This week, Howard County was awarded grant funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to purchase three replacement transit vehicles and implement an automated bus stop announcement system on its fixed route fleet. This project will improve service reliability while maintaining a state of good repair. Each new transit bus costs approximately $400,000 and the bus annunciator system cost is estimated at $260,000. The application for the grant was submitted via the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Transportation Administration.   

“The modernization of our RTA fleet has been one of our top priorities as we strive to create more reliable and accessible infrastructure for our residents,” said County Executive Calvin Ball. “New and more reliable buses mean a more comfortable ride for passengers, reduced operating costs related to the repair and maintenance of older buses and, more importantly, fewer breakdowns and improved on-time performance. We’re incredibly grateful to our federal delegation, Senators Cardin and Van Hollen, and Congressmen Sarbanes and Mfume for their commitment to Howard County receiving this funding.”  

“This new federal investment will help upgrade Howard County’s public transportation network by improving bus service and reliability,” the federal lawmakers said. “We will continue working to expand and modernize public transit throughout Maryland.”  

The automated bus annunciators will help RTA provide more audible and consistent bus stop announcements that currently rely on verbal announcements from RTA’s Operators.  As Howard County works to install barriers to protect operators from the spread of COVID-19, the new announcement system will make it easier for passengers to hear bus stop announcements. 

“The additional funding is particularly timely considering the challenges all transit operators are facing in the wake of declining State and local revenues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bruce Gartner, Administrator of Howard County’s Office of Transportation. “We look forward to retiring buses that were originally purchased in 2002 and continuing to roll out technology solutions. The bus stop annunciator system will build on the real time bus information system implemented in March and the mobile payment system that the County and RTA expect to roll out before the end of 2020.”  

The FTA announced $464 million in infrastructure grants to 96 projects in 49 states and territories to improve the safety and reliability of America’s bus systems. Howard County is one of three jurisdictions in the State to receive a total of $4.8 million in grant funding. The funding will become available to Howard County in the next few months, at which point the County will place an order for new buses. The delivery of new buses is anticipated in the winter of 2021-2022.  

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Scott E