March 23, 2011

MCI supplies coaches to Penn. VA hospital

U.S. military veterans seeking medical treatment now have a comfortable way to travel from the James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center in Altoona, Penn., to the VA hospital in Pittsburgh: two new Motor Coach Industries (MCI) D4005 coaches, delivered in January and purchased through the GSA procurement process.

Tom Callahan, operator of the Altoona VA coaches, said that when it came time to shop for the new vehicles, he turned to the best-informed experts he could find for advice: the people at the Altoona bus testing center who test public sector coaches. They pointed him and his colleagues to their website for test results. “We spent a lot of time researching,” said Callahan, who notes that the coaches have to endure many weather and terrain challenges. “We’ve hopefully bought at least a 15-year bus. These coaches should give our veterans the comfort and reliability they deserve.”

The new coaches, which replace transit-style models, feature 47 forward-facing seats with footrests and cup holders, along with a DVD entertainment system. Powered by Cummins ISM 2007 410-hp engines and Allison B500 transmissions, the 40-foot coaches are the shorter siblings to the MCI D4505. The MCI D-Series, which includes several models, is the best-selling coach family in industry history, with a reputation for comfort and longevity.
 
The Altoona VA coaches are also elegantly decaled. “They’re beautiful,” said Andrea Young, public affairs officer for the facility. “The wraps give us recognition; the details are so patriotic, and they inspire a lot of pride amongst our patients and all veterans.”

The Altoona VA veterans use the coaches to access medical and specialty services not provided by their home facility. The ride to Pittsburgh takes about two hours, and the coaches leave twice a day. Young said many of the veterans are older and under stress resulting from their conditions. “It’s nice to have them in a comfortable environment.”

Callahan, who also shares in driving duties for the veterans, agrees. “The veterans love these coaches. I get comments on them every day.”

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