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Any word on Millennium? (UPDATE)
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RailBus63
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 8:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure if it is still in service, but Foxwoods had one of the oldest RTS buses when I visited a few years ago - an 03 model RTS that was built for the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority in 1978. It had been modified with the 04-style air-conditioning retrofit.

Interestingly, I found one of its sister buses in the Avis fleet at the Kansas City airport. I knew Avis had some rebuilt 03's so I waited for this one and sat up front to scribble down the serial number - when I got back home, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was an ex-RIPTA bus.

Jim
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ripta42
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 8:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Was the bus at KCI one of the RTS-03s that were rebuilt by TMC in the early '90s?
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RailBus63
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2007 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ripta42 wrote:
Was the bus at KCI one of the RTS-03s that were rebuilt by TMC in the early '90s?


I'm not familiar with that rebuilding program so I can't be sure. The original GMC 'RTS II' builder's plate was still there but I don't recall seeing any rebuilder's plate. It had what I believe is the Thermo-King air-conditioning retrofit package over the old slopeback rear but still had the diagonal 03-type vents behind the rearmost window.

Did Avis get many ex-RIPTA RTS 03's for this rebuilding program? At one time these buses were fairly common in the Avis fleet alongside their original 04's - I believe I have a shot of one at Boston's Logan Airport in the late 1990's.
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ripta42
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2007 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If they had a "backpack" A/C unit, they weren't TMC rebuilds. Those came out looking like contemporary RTS-06es, with a solid rear panel and no triangluar window. Keeshin in Chicago had several for O'Hare shuttle and corporate charter service; there's a picture of ex-RIPTA 7875midway down this page.

I don't know the disposition of the RIPTA RTSes. I wish I did; I'd love to track down some of those still in existence.
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RTS_04




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PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2007 3:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Allright. I spoke with the bussing department manager at Foxwoods Casino, and I can confirm to you that A Millennium RTS has recently been acquired by the casino.

At this point, I don't have ANY part of a serial number or a story as to how it was purchased (I may have part of this relatively soon), but I do know that it 's equipped with transit seating.

This means that if it's one of the two original NJT demos, it's 4101. I don't know if it's any subsequent numbering, because Dave Mackey's NJT roster states:

Quote:
NJT ordered 168 transits and 221 suburbans from Millennium Transit, who acquired the rights to produce the RTS design. Millennium went out of business before the order could be fulfilled. Some production buses were delivered but never put into service. Therefore, NJT will instead acquire these buses as an addition to the current order from NABI.


I've no idea at this point if that's true or not. At this point, I'll be lucky enough to squeeze in the Foxwoods bus into the book; any subsequent details will likely develop past printing.
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RTS_04




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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(In best McEnroe voice) You CANNOT be serious!

Just when I think the book's done...

I'm working on trying to cover the production of THESE buses not for the book but for the MBS. I'll let you know what happens.

[August 23, 2007]

Millennium gearing up again: Roswell factory has a contract for 16 buses

(Albuquerque Journal (NM) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Aug. 23--Despite major setbacks, including the loss in April of a $94 million contract with the state of New Jersey, officials at Roswell's Millennium Transit say the bus factory should restart production soon.

The company has a contract to provide 16 buses to the city of Beaumont, Texas, and is currently evaluating its inventory and making plans to begin their construction, plant manager Ted Smith told the Journal this week.

"We are seeking more contracts," he said.

And a Roswell city official says the company has kept current on payments of a $4.3 million loan for more than a year.

"Frankly, we've taken the fact that they've continued to make those payments as an encouraging sign that they plan to have a future," said Roswell Finance Director Larry Fry.

Millennium Transit was at one time considered one of Roswell's best hopes for economic growth.

In 2003, Millennium bought a shuttered factory owned by Volvo subsidiary NovaBUS, which was once the city's largest private employer, providing 850 jobs.

Like NovaBUS and other former owners of the plant, Millennium builds Rapid Transit Series, or RTS, buses -- a design originally created in the late 1970s by General Motors that is considered the workhorse of many city fleets.

When Volvo decided to close the plant on Roswell's former Walker Air Force Base, it cited sagging demand for the high-floor RTS buses.

However, Millennium co-founder Les Kolls in 2005 said the rugged design was still popular in cities with heavy winter snowfall and aging, high-crowned streets.

As part of the deal to buy the plant, the State Investment Council contributed about $2 million in mortgage backing, the city of Roswell kicked in another $2 million in loans from its water fund, and Pioneer Bank, which also services the mortgage, provided about $250,000 in financing.

In mid-July 2005, the company announced it had landed an order for 289 city buses from New Jersey Transit, which handles public transit for the state of New Jersey.

Negotiations were lengthy and the competition was stiff, Kolls said at the time.

Soon thereafter, Millennium received about $2 million in training funds from the state's Economic Development Department's Job Training Incentive Program to hire and train 250 employees by April 2007 to fill the bus order.

The Economic Development secretary at the time, Rick Homans, said Gov. Bill Richardson personally called New Jersey Transit to urge them to take a chance on the fledgling firm, which at the time had no other contracts.

But troubles began to appear in early 2007.

In February, Millennium surprised local officials by announcing it would lay off most of its workers, which then numbered about 100.

A major stockholder, James Ludvik, told the Roswell Daily Record that he ordered the shutdown in order to do a complete inventory but that the layoffs would be temporary.

In an e-mailed statement to the newspaper, Ludvik also said Millennium officials would seek changes to their loan agreements that would let them use some assets as collateral for a "working-capital credit line."

The Roswell City Council unanimously approved the loan changes soon afterward.

But in April, Millennium announced in a news release that it had lost the $94 million New Jersey order because of "inability to obtain necessary funding to complete the contract."

New Jersey Transit officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Since April, at least three Roswell area suppliers to Millennium have sued the company in local courts for nonpayment.

But the company does have a few existing customers, among them El Paso and Pueblo, Colo.

Chris Quigley, a fleet supervisor for the city of Pueblo, says the two Millennium buses in his 16-vehicle RTS bus fleet have served very well since their delivery in late 2006.

"In fact, we'd like to pursue getting some more from them," Quigley said.

Smith said the company's ownership has changed but that its founders, Kolls and Jane Somes, were still involved as officers of the company.

Smith declined to provide details of the ownership change, or to give a current employee count for the company.

Fry said because the company has stayed current on its loan payments.
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RailBus63
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 11:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just don't see it. Thanks to the subprime lending crisis, financing is going to be even more difficult to get, especially for a company with a shaky history.

And the comment about 'cities with heavy winter snowfall and aging, high-crowned streets' seems to be wishful thinking - New York City, Boston and other longtime RTS customers have gone low-floor in a big way. New Jersey Transit is the last big U.S. customer for high-floor transit buses, but I would think there is zero chance they would go back to Millennium.
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ripta42
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If their lender is the State of New Mexico, which is putting high hopes on Milennium as a source of economic development, they probably don't have to worry about securing financing. I wonder what the funding issue was that caused NJ Transit to back out of its contract.

Milennium also seems to have gotten past their "customers still want the RTS" phase, since they have already developed a low floor coach. Let's hope they have the know-how to build a quality product and get it out on the streets.
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KCRam3500




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PostPosted: Sat Aug 25, 2007 5:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ripta42 wrote:
If their lender is the State of New Mexico, which is putting high hopes on Milennium as a source of economic development, they probably don't have to worry about securing financing. I wonder what the funding issue was that caused NJ Transit to back out of its contract.
That's simple. The contract was worth $94 million, but they didn't have the capital to buy the components. The engines alone - 289 Caterpillar C9 engines - cost well over $10 million. Add to that transmissions, axles, seats, and such, and over half the value of that contract was needed to just buy the parts necessary. Obviously, some of these suppliers were not willing to wait for payment, which is standard procedure when dealing with a start-up. MTS bit off more than they could chew with the NJT order, but little orders like 5 here and 10 there will help them build cash flow and a reputation with suppliers. They should be competing with Gillig for the small TAs, not against New Flyer, Orion, and NABI for major operators.
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