WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to strengthen public transportation and reduce pollution, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today announced a new $1.5 million federal grant to help the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) purchase new all-electric buses and associated infrastructure.  

The State announced in May that a portion of Volkswagen settlement funds slated for Rhode Island will be used to introduce new, zero-emission electric buses into RIPTA’s fleet as it retires older vehicles.

Reed’s office said that 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.

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 in the 2018 Omnibus Appropriations law to make this grant possible. 

“RIPTA is moving toward a cleaner energy future and replacing older buses with newer, more efficient models.  This federal grant is a smart investment that will help RIPTA curb pollution, accelerate the transition to a greener fleet, and reduce maintenance costs in the long run.  I am pleased to help deliver these funds to support RIPTA’s sustainability goals as they continue finding new and innovative ways to provide safe, clean, flexible transportation opportunities to all Rhode Islanders,” said Senator Reed, who wrote a letter to FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes supporting RIPTA’s grant application. 

“This is great news for RIPTA and for the state,” Scott Avedisian, RIPTA’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) said.   “By securing these additional funds, Senator Reed will allow us to advance our efforts.  These funds, combined with Rhode Island’s Volkswagen Settlement Funds, are helping RIPTA to lead Rhode Island’s efforts to combat climate change in the transportation sector.”

RIPTA is starting the introduction of electric buses into its fleet with a pilot program this fall of three electric buses, Avedisian said.  These vehicles, which are expected to arrive next month, will enable the transit authority to look at such logistics as the charging requirements of the vehicles and how they meet RIPTA’s service demands.  The buses will be tested on a variety of routes, with a focus on serving communities with poor air quality and high asthma rates.

All-electric buses will replace older vehicles that are being retired.  Buses are expected to be acquired and in service by 2021.  RIPTA’s purchase of the clean-energy buses will be an important step in its Green Fleet Transition Plan, which has been designed to transition the RIPTA fleet to zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) buses.  The investment in electric buses also supports the state's greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan goals relating to vehicle miles traveled and electric vehicles.