Suffolk County rolled out the first of 30 new hybrid buses on Monday as part of a $25.6 million upgrade to the county’s fleet.
The $650,000 electric/diesel powered buses will reduce fuel costs by 10 percent to 15 percent. They also feature easier wheelchair accessibility and new fare boxes that will allow customers to get change back for the first time, in the form of a paper card that can be used for bus fare, county officials said.
Suffolk will get another 40 smaller transit buses by the end of June as the county replaces half its 140-vehicle fixed-route fleet.
The new bus system will be “more efficient, more reliable and less costly for taxpayers,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said at a news conference Monday. “We’re proud of how far our transportation system has come and where it’s heading.”
Suffolk County last year eliminated eight bus routes to save $4 million.
Despite that, Bellone said the county was committed to improving the county’s public transportation network as it lobbies the state for additional money.
Deputy Public Works Commissioner Darnell Tyson said the new hybrid buses each cost about $50,000 more than conventional diesel buses. The new buses will be equipped with vehicle locaters and automatic passenger counters to help the county manage the bus system.
The Federal Transit Administration will cover $20.5 million in costs for the new buses and equipment. The state Department of Transportation and Suffolk each will pay $2.56 million.
The smaller buses will be deployed starting this summer on routes with fewer passengers.
Bellone also said that the county’s paratransit system, which provides door-to-door service for the disabled, has seen a 9 percent increase in ridership in the past year and will soon expand from 180 to 200 vehicles.