Mammoth, Reds Meadow, Devils Postpile and the Eastern Sierra are about to get 11 brand new buses to add to their combined transportation fleets.
The Eldorado National bus company in Riverside is building the buses. Eight of the buses are the Axess model, seating 37 with luggage racks for gear (backpacks, for example). The model is a one-step bus, that is, one step up and you’re on the ground floor. Seats in the rear, over the axel, are another two steps up.
Three of the new buses are the EZ Rider model. They are smaller, but still seat 37.
Eldorado is ahead of construction schedule on the buses, which should all be here by May, according to Sandy Hogan, chair of the town’s Mobility Commission and a strong proponent of mass transportation.
“Currently we are discussing how to replace the buses from Mammoth Mountain Ski Area all over town,” she said. “That will take a couple of years, but it’s under discussion, that’s for sure.”
The cost is jaw dropping.
Local taxpayers will pay nothing except for future maintenance.
The project could not have happened were it not for the creation of the Eastern Sierra Transit Authority (ESTA), which owns and operates many of the vehicles in the burgeoning transportation system all up and down the Eastern Sierra.
The acquisition of the new fleet is a result of $2.8 million in federal funds acquired from the Federal Transportation Authority.
The feds announced last month that ESTA had been awarded $2.8 million in additional funding through the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks Program for the purchase of buses for the Reds Meadow/Devils Postpile shuttle service in the Inyo National Forest.
The funding supplements $1.6 million from a previous grant and will allow the Authority to purchase 11 buses for the shuttle service.
Originally, the National Forest Service, in cooperation with the National Park Service, made the grant request.
Once the grant was awarded, however, neither the Forest Service nor the National Park Service wanted to actually own the buses.
That was no problem for ESTA, which wanted new buses for the Reds Shuttle.
The Reds Meadow shuttle is seasonal, however, operating only in the summer months. For the other months of the year, ESTA will use the buses in town, Hogan said.
In the future, if all goes according to plan, Mammoth Mountain would then create a contract with ESTA for use of the buses, particularly the Red Line.