A major shift in the city’s public transportation system is coming, and it will be painted red and green. Wednesday, the city’s Board of Public Works & Safety approved the purchase of three trolley buses, which by summer’s end will begin carrying passengers along two fixed routes in Kokomo.

The red-and-green buses cost $146,700 apiece, with all but $24,000 coming from federal funds. Federal funds, primarily stimulus dollars, will also pay for the former Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles building on South Union Street, which will serve as the bus system’s dispatch center and as a transfer station for the north-south and east-west routes.

Wednesday, Howard County Governmental Coordinating Council director Larry Ives was getting ready to close on the building, which will be purchased for $440,000. Ives said the city, which will run the service, hopes to be able to run two buses, 10 hours per day, five days a week, for about $200,000 a year.

In the first year, stimulus funds will pay most of that cost, and the rest of the funding will come from existing federal transportation funds Ives administers. Until now, those transportation funds have been going toward running the city’s First City Rider and Senior Bus programs.

Those programs will continue, but city officials have already said they will reevaluate whether money should be diverted from First City Rider to the as-yet-unnamed bus service in the future.Wednesday, city controller Jim Brannon said the 28-passenger trolleys will be purchased from Specialty Vehicles, Henderson, Nev.

But the transfer/dispatch center won’t be ready until at least August, Ives said. Each bus will have a wheelchair lift, and will stop about every six blocks. Ives said liability issues will probably make it impossible for passengers to “flag down” passing buses.

Brannon said the city will probably have to add at least two full-time employees to run the new system, and will possibly hire from within the existing pool of part-time Senior Bus drivers.

By Scott Smith – Kokomo Tribune staff writer