By Luke Weir
Amidst high demand for public transportation in and around Boone, AppalCart is preparing 10 new buses for service.
Nine old buses along AppalCart’s 13 routes will be retired and replaced by nine of the new, more fuel-efficient, lower carbon emissions buses, according to AppalCart director Craig Hughes.
Hughes said the tenth new bus will bring the fleet’s number up to 24 full-sized buses and will serve as a second line for red route, which often operates near peak capacity and is expected to see increased ridership when Appalachian State’s Beaver College of Health Sciences opens in the fall.
“The old buses met their useful lifespan and were starting to show their age,” Hughes told High Country Press in a phone interview.
More than $4.3 million was spent on the ten buses, working out to roughly $435,000 per bus, Hughes said. According to Hughes, the price was largely covered by the Federal Transit Administration, with additional money from the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Appalachian State University and Watauga County.
Across its fleet, AppalCart logged almost one million riders between July 1 and December 31, 2017, and hopes to top 2 million by the end of its service year, Hughes said.
AppalCart will begin a comprehensive service review in the spring, during which time bus routes will be analyzed and optimized to meet the public’s transportation needs, Hughes said.
“We’re growing,” Hughes said. “Our challenge is trying to figure out how to best meet peak demand and provide service to as many riders as possible.”
Hughes said the new buses must be outfitted with radio and NextBus equipment before they are ready to hit the streets of Boone and replace the old buses.
“These new buses should cut down maintenance time and make for a better rider experience,” Hughes said. “We’re looking forward to getting them out there for folks.”