Management & Operations

Finding the true cost of your transit buses

Posted on January 1, 2005

Capturing transit bus maintenance and performance data cheaply and regularly, and filtering and analyzing it properly are keys to evaluating the true cost of a vehicle over its useful life. John Walsh, chief maintenance officer for New York City Transit’s (NYCT) Department of Buses, explained his strategy during a panel discussion on life-cycle costing at the American Public Transportation Association’s Bus Equipment and Maintenance/Procurement and Materials Management Workshop in Anaheim, Calif., in November. “You also need to have confidence in your information systems,” Walsh said. Proper life-cycle cost analysis is particularly crucial in New York City because of the harsh road conditions and duty cycles. “You need to have robust systems in place here,” Walsh said, adding that NYCT buses log an extraordinary number of engine hours, door openings and transmission shifts compared to vehicles operated by other transit systems. NYCT operates a fleet of 4,500 buses with an average weekly ridership of 2.5 million. Walsh said the buses service 218 routes and 12,355 stops. Annually, the buses consume 44 million gallons of diesel fuel and 3.7 million gallons of compressed natural gas. Walsh said it’s critical that maintenance officials monitor the primary drivers of wear and failure and that specific performance requirements be quantified. At NYCT, critical cost drivers are broken into acquisition-cost components and sustaining-cost components. The latter are tracked by preventive maintenance costs and unscheduled maintenance costs. NYCT evaluates the appropriate maintenance interval based on the primary wear drivers miles, hours, fuel usage or number of cycles. This interval varies based on the duty cycle. Key vehicle components that affect life-cycle costs are the transmission, engine, door and interlock system, foundation brake and suspension system, heating-air conditioning system, structure and auxiliary components and systems. Walsh said life-cycle costing requires further validation and experience. “More work needs to be done,” he said.

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