Public transit is a topic with high "leverage". Conservatives support it, within reason, because it helps people get to jobs and training. Liberals like it on principle.
Unfortunately, too many resources have been squandered on monuments like light, commuter rail rather than the common, plebeian, diesel-powered, transit bus.
Avoidance vs. Evasion
There are several perverse incentives that make it difficult for cities like Detroit to bootstrap their way out of the wrong side of the critical mass.
For one thing, the Feds subsidize new buses when 12 year old buses are retired. That sabotages the possibility of simply hanging onto their buses for an additional six years, thereby increasing the size of the fleet by 50%.
|It is good economics to let maintenance slide the last couple of years when the 12 year cycle is cast in stone. For the record, a new, 40', conventional Diesel transit bus runs about $300k|
One possibility would be to SELL the powertrain of new units to a private company like AIS or Michigan CAT and then they lease-back and handle maintenance.
The private company gets the tax benefits of depreciating the equipment and can do the total powertrain/drivetrain rebuild for 60% of the $100k it costs the city to do it. That cost would be captured in the lease-back payments.
Run the business with the expectation that the buses will be kept in service for 18 years instead of 12.
When the bus turns 12, sell the rest of the bus to the private company for refurb. Retire it for a month and then put back into service in Detroit as a rental.
That should result in a 50% increase in the fleet of buses. There might also be an immediate gain if the outside service business can push the fleet availability above 95%.
Detroit residents trying to get a bus to their jobs get a bus every 20 minutes instead of one every 30 minutes, maybe. The City of Detroit gets some money back up-front. ATU Local 26 gets more jobs as drivers because there are more buses to drive. Michigan CAT or whoever gets jobs and sets up a bay dedicated to rebuilding transit bus powertrain/drivetrains.