In an effort to strengthen public transportation and reduce pollution, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today announced a new $5,076,000 federal grant to help the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) purchase 15 battery-electric buses. The new battery-electric buses will replace fifteen diesel buses and help improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and get RIPTA closer to its goal of a cleaner, greener bus fleet.
Senator Reed, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD), fought to include additional federal funding for the Low-No Emissions Bus Grant Program in the fiscal year 2020 THUD Appropriations law. Reed included $75 million in competitive funds for this initiative to help transit agencies convert their fleets to lower emission, clean transportation alternatives.
“I’m pleased to deliver this federal funding to help RIPTA enhance its fleet and provide Rhode Islanders with a quieter, cleaner, smoother, and healthier ride,” said Senator Reed. “This federal funding will help the state save money while improving public transportation services and it will help RIPTA continue along the path toward a cleaner energy future by replacing older diesel busses with newer, cleaner, more efficient models.”
The new federal grant is being awarded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Low or No (Low-No) Emission Bus Program. It builds off a $1.5 million federal grant Reed helped secure in 2018 to purchase three electric buses and associated infrastructure.
“RIPTA is committed to building a green fleet and this grant is a tremendous assist as we work toward our goal,” said Scott Avedisian, RIPTA’s Chief Executive Officer. “Senator Reed is a great supporter of public transportation and an advocate for helping it be as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. We are fortunate to have the federal and state support that we have here in Rhode Island. In the spring of 2018, the Governor and our Congressional delegation announced that most of the state’s Volkswagen settlement funds would be allocated to RIPTA for the electrification of part of its fleet. We are currently using three leased electric buses to learn how electric vehicles operate on our routes so we can make informed decisions when we go out to bid for new electric vehicles. We look forward to taking the next steps toward cleaner public transportation.”
RIPTA currently operates a fleet of nearly 250 fixed route vehicles, including 62 hybrid vehicles.
The federal funds must be partially matched with local funds. Rhode Island plans to use a portion of the $14.4 million in Volkswagen settlement funds the state received in 2015.
“This federal grant is a smart investment that will help RIPTA curb pollution, accelerate the transition to a greener fleet, and reduce fuel and maintenance costs. I am pleased to help support RIPTA’s sustainability goals as it continues to develop new and innovative ways to provide safe, clean, flexible transportation opportunities to all Rhode Islanders,” said Senator Reed, who wrote a letter to the FTA’s Acting Administrator in support of RIPTA’s grant application.
The new buses are expected to be acquired and in service by 2022. RIPTA’s purchase of the new clean-energy buses are projected to eliminate more than 1,650 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually.
Noting that reliable, efficient public transportation will be key to the state’s economic recovery, Senator Reed successfully delivered $104.6 million for RIPTA in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Public Law No. 116-136) to help keep public transportation running in the Ocean State as it grapples with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.