RACINE — This week, the City of Racine received notice that it has been awarded $3,183,723 from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Authority (FTA) Low or No Emission Vehicle Program (“Low-No Program”) to buy electric buses. Racine is the only city in Wisconsin to receive an allocation.
With a population of 78,000, Racine ranks as the state’s fifth largest municipality.
According to the FTA, Racine’s grant will be used to purchase battery electric buses and charging stations to improve the efficiency of moving the city’s workforce to jobs and schools. Racine Transit (RYDE) carries more than one million riders per year, utilizing 35 buses on ten routes and 155 miles of mixed traffic right-of-way.
In January, the FTA announced the availability of $130 million of Fiscal Year 2020 funds for the purchase or lease of low- or no-emission vehicles. Proposals were due on March 17.
According to the FTA, the main purpose of the competitive program is to support the transition of the nation’s transit fleet to the lowest polluting and most energy efficient transit vehicles.
The program provides grant funding to state and local governmental authorities for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses, including acquisition, construction, and leasing of required supporting facilities.
“These grants will help communities nationwide deploy the next generation of bus technology to enhance their transportation system,” said Federal Transportation System Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
Since the program’s establishment, the FTA’s Low-No Emission grant program has funded more than $409 million in projects.
Past grants In November 2018, the city received $6,190,906.00 from the Volkswagen Transit Capital Assistance Grant Program to fund the purchase of six electric buses and related infrastructure. The FTA grant will increase that capacity from six electric buses to nine.
“As a city, we want to be a leader on moving from outdated, and carbon heavy diesel buses, to new carbon-friendly electric buses,” Racine Mayor Cory Mason said. “As Mayor, I am committed to lowering the city’s carbon footprint, but this also makes good fiscal sense for the city. The awards from both the FTA and from the VW program help the city avoid capital borrowing and, in the long-term, electric buses yield substantial savings on gas costs.”
“The electric buses will replace buses that are 16 years old and have 500,000 miles on them,” said Michael Maierle, Transit and Parking Manager for the City of Racine. “The new buses will run 100% cleaner, four times more efficiently, and our riders and neighbors will enjoy the quieter ride.”
“Electrifying the city’s bus fleet is not just about buses — it’s about our building and parking infrastructure, too,’’ said Cara Pratt, Sustainability and Conservation Coordinator for the City of Racine.“We are working to identify opportunities to ensure that the charging of our buses is also powered by alternative energy.”
Maierle told The Journal Times on Thursday that the aggregate nine electric buses and related infrastructure will be purchased from Burlingame, Calif.-based Proterra, Inc., a leader in the design and manufacture of zero-emission buses and electric charging systems for municipal, federal and commercial transit agencies.
“We are ordering the buses now and getting into the production queue at Proterra,” Maierle said, noting he is hoping for “between now and sometime in early 2021” for delivery, followed by a couple of preparatory months “to get everything organized on the ground” prior to an anticipated mid-2021 rubber-meets-the-road rollout.
“This is all really new. Getting this [FTA] grant has really just started the clock on this. I’ve been in touch with Proterra and getting in line for production, but the buses are not even officially ordered yet … Knowing the production date – it all hinges on that.”
Maierly said the Volkswagen Transit Capital Assistance Grant award for six electric buses served to cover the city’s 15% local “match” for the FTA’s Low-No grant funding the purchase of an additional three.