An early morning fire in the bus canopy of Ozark Regional Transit has depleted the bus fleet and ORT's ability to maintain bus routes in the near future.
Twenty buses were destroyed and four, roadworthy buses survived. Two of the latter were undergoing maintenance at the time of the fire and will be placed back in service in the coming days. One bus was shielded from the fire by another bus and another was still in route at 2:00 a.m. the morning of 01/10/17. These two buses will be in service today as the new Commuter Express route and Route 65 in Springdale.
All minivans survived the fire and will be in service.
ORT will endeavor to accommodate as many passengers as is possible with this depleted fleet, but all services are subject to interruption, rescheduling, and/or cancellation.
More information will be provided as it becomes available. We ask for patience and understanding as we work diligently to recover from this incident.
Joel Gardner, Executive Director of ORT, has reached out to multiple contacts around the state and the country in an effort to restore public transportation services in Northwest Arkansas as quickly as possible. Many of these contacts have already responded positively to ORT's situation.
One transit system has a few 12-seat vans immediately available for ORT's use. These will be immediately placed on routes that typically have fewer passengers, tentative upon the vehicles being mobilized to Northwest Arkansas. A different transit system is currently in their slower, winter season, meaning fewer routes and fewer passengers. They may also be able to provide buses temporarily.
Two of ORT's buses, in addition to the four that were spared in Tuesday's fire, were offsite receiving manufacturer-specific repairs and will likely be put back into service today or tomorrow.
The latter two of the three MCI Motorcoaches announced in a previous release as being secured for commuter service, are due onsite this Friday. One of these, after a thorough inspection and some upgrades necessary to assimilate into the ORT fleet, will be incorporated and take over the Route 490 Express' duties.
Two additional buses onsite that have required minor repairs but are otherwise roadworthy will be evaluated immediately, parts ordered and placed in service as soon as possible.
ORT's goal is to have 9 of the 20 buses lost, replaced by mid-week next week, and 14 buses replaced in two weeks.
While public transportation services are restored, reduced routes similar to those during inclement weather will be the norm. As assets are restored, more services and amenities will be brought back online.
Due to previously purchased bus passes not being fully honored, as we recover, January passes will be honored additionally for February.