Bus Rehabilitation Issues Need Attention

RCED-84-81: Published: Apr 9, 1984. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 1984.

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GAO examined bus rehabilitation issues to: (1) determine the costs and benefits of bus rehabilitation; (2) analyze the Urban Mass Transportation Administration's (UMTA) bus rehabilitation policies; and (3) review UMTA efforts to determine the costs and benefits of bus rehabilitation.

Bus rehabilitation is a means by which local transit authorities can extend the useful life of buses and avoid the high cost of new buses. In 1979, UMTA began to provide grants for bus rehabilitation because: (1) it could not fund an increase in new bus purchases; and (2) it believed that rehabilitation was a cost-effective alternative to bus purchases. GAO found that UMTA bus rehabilitation policies favor new bus purchases over rehabilitation. Because information on the costs and benefits of bus rehabilitation is limited, UMTA is gathering data to aid it in developing a final bus rehabilitation policy. GAO believes that the data collection planned by UMTA does not include elements necessary for the study to have nationwide applicability. GAO attempted to define the costs and benefits of bus rehabilitation but could not because: (1) transit authorities have not kept extensive performance and maintenance records by bus model; and (2) most rehabilitated buses have not reached the end of their extended useful life. The limited information available to GAO indicated that bus rehabilitation has the potential to be a cost-effective alternative to new bus purchases.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On June 17, 1985, UMTA issued guidance to transit systems providing that Section 9 funds for replacing and rebuilding buses falls under the same guidelines and financial assistance rates.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, UMTA, to make the funding formula for bus rehabilitation identical to that for new bus purchases until the results of its cost-benefit study are known.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: UMTA found that insufficient data exist to permit an accurate comparison of the cost of new buses with rehabilitated ones and that it would take too long to develop reliable data. Furthermore, the number of bus rehabilitations is currently low.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, UMTA, to revise its proposed cost-benefit study of rehabilitation to include a comparison of the performance and cost of new as well as rehabilitated buses, a sufficient sample size, and a time frame for data collection which would allow for recognizing changes in new and rehabilitated operation and maintenance costs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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