Sunday, December 17, 2006

Bend Oregon's new bus system "breaking down"

Bend OR - Bend Oregon recently purchased 6 used buses from Transit Sales International (TSI), a third party vendor of used buses, to start up its new bus system. The problem was that Bend's transit officials didn't do their homework according to a news story from the website.

Bend purchased second hand buses for much more than they were worth and literally let TSI hand them the stereotypical used car salesman lines to cover over the problems of the buses. The buses were sold as having about 1/3 less miles than the buses actually may have had. They also had a multitude of mechanical problems which were unreported to Bend officials.

The mechanical problems are what is causing the headaches for the transit system. As the system is dependent on the 6 buses that make up Bend's fleet, having buses breaking down can literally grind the entire operation to a halt.

While second hand buses are routinely used in smaller transit systems across the United States due to being a fraction of the cost of a new bus, they usually don't all come in at once and are scattered over various years to avoid what is happening in Bend, an entire fleet failure. Bend's entire fleet is comprised of the 6 used buses which were all built in the same original order for the Utah Transit Authority.

What happened in Bend was that city officials started a transit system on the cheap and are being burned for it now. Bend was in such a hurry to get a transit system running that they didn't think of the problems they may encounter. They rushed out to buy buses and quite literally grabbed the first buses they saw on the lot which were cheap and looked halfway decent.

Not doing the needed research is what got Bend into this mess. City Purchasing Manager, Bob Griffith, admitted "We normally don't research vendors. It might be something we should consider, particularly out of state like this and this much money."

That admission, on its own, is scary considering that the city is spending other people's money which is ultimately obtained through taxes. It also shows that the city isn't a good steward of the taxpayer's money if they'll give it away without doing the needed research to show that the money is being spent wisely. The statement also shows that Bend officials haven't learned their lesson as the statement clearly states that they "should consider" researching vendors rather than saying they will research vendors from now on.

Now, Bend may face spending much more of taxpayer money to initiate legal action as well as buy replacement buses in addition to the extra money already spent to make a multitude of repairs on the existing buses. While the city residents can and do utilize the transit system, Bend another example of a city that can't afford to run a system but has one. Given the number of cities that are like this, I really am expecting to read in the media soon that Bend is planning a Light Rail Line or a downtown trolley line. It would fit in perfectly since they can't afford to run what they have now.

While TSI is hardly blame free in this situation, the city officials in Bend get the Lance for not doing the required research needed to spot potential problems before entering into a purchase agreement. By not doing their homework, they now have the task of repairing the bad image their already struggling new transit system now has. In addition, the extra costs associated with the poor decisions made by city officials will ultimately hurt the transit system.

1 comment:

RDC said...

An addition to this post is that the used buses in question are ElDorados. Known in the fan community as "HellDorados", these are a light to medium duty coach designed to last anywhere from 6 to 8 years. Bend bought the buses when they were 10 years old.

Bend Oregon is a city that was just waiting to be fleeced.