The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) will be able to upgrade its bus fleet thanks to a new federal grant that was secured with the help of U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline.
The four members of the Rhode Island Congressional delegation today joined with RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian in announcing the federal grant, which will help RIPTA replace 17 high-mileage, outdated buses with newer, more fuel-efficient buses and make site improvements to bus facilities. The funding comes through the Buses and Bus Facilities Program, which assists state and local transit agencies with financing for buses and bus facilities capital projects. The federal funding will be augmented with state matching funds. RIPTA will begin the procurement process almost immediately, and the production of the new buses would begin in the fall of 2021, with delivery expected in the spring of 2023.
“This is great news for RIPTA riders. This federal funding will help RIPTA increase the overall efficiency and reliability of the bus fleet and better serve the public,” said Senator Reed, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD), who worked to add $170 million to the Bus and Bus Facility program in fiscal year 2020.
“This federal grant is a major investment in the modernization of RIPTA’s fleet,” said Senator Whitehouse. “The addition of seventeen new fuel-efficient buses will provide a more reliable and pleasant experience for riders, and reduce harmful air pollution for everyone.”
“RIPTA provides essential services to Rhode Islanders, and I’m pleased they will use this grant funding to make considerable upgrades to their bus fleet to better serve the needs of riders,” said Congressman Langevin. “Whether it’s going to work, visiting the doctor, or shopping for groceries, public transportation helps families access important services and participate in the local economy. I’m proud to have collaborated with my Congressional colleagues to secure this funding to make sure our state’s transit system is in good shape so more people can access safe and reliable transportation options.”
“Investing in public transit is one of the most effective ways to create jobs and improve the quality of life in our state. This grant will ensure that Rhode Islanders using RIPTA enjoy safe, quality public transportation at an affordable price,” Congressman Cicilline said. “There’s more that needs to be done. The House passed $1.5 trillion in transportation funding earlier this summer. Mitch McConnell has blocked our bill from coming to the Senate floor. I will continue fighting until we make the infrastructure investments we need right now.”
Currently, RIPTA serves 36 municipalities with 53 fixed routes, zone-based Flex service, and paratransit services. In 2019 alone, it provided 16.2 million trips.
Scott Avedisian, RIPTA’s Chief Executive Officer, said that keeping the bus fleet up to date is critical to service while also helping to keep maintenance costs down. “Maintaining our fleet of 220-plus buses is essential in our being able to deliver safe and reliable service to the public,” Avedisian said. “Also, the ongoing replacement of RIPTA’s fleet supports the economy, both locally and nationally, by promoting U.S. manufacturing, and making sure that RIPTA passengers have access to employment centers throughout Rhode Island.”
The federal grant is administered through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The program supports the replacing, rehabilitating, purchasing, or leasing of buses or related equipment and the rehabilitating, purchasing, constructing, or leasing of bus-related facilities.