Rock Region METRO was awarded $4,900,000 – its largest competitive grant award to date – in Federal Transit Administration funds to purchase up to five 40-foot battery electric buses (BEBs) and related battery charging infrastructure as part of the FTA’s Low- or No-Emission Grant program. This is the fourth FTA competitive grant METRO has received since receiving its first in 2016. This “Shock the Rock” project will place the Little Rock metro as the first region to operate zero-emission public transit vehicles in Arkansas.
The METRO team has partnered with Proterra, leading provider of battery electric buses, in the United States and Canada. The Proterra buses have a range of 345 miles each day, which will reduce METRO’s fuel expenses throughout its transit service area. The vehicle charging infrastructure can be designed to charge mass transit vehicles on one side and multiple personal vehicles on the other.
“This is such as exciting opportunity for METRO to lead the push to put Little Rock on the map for electric vehicle charging infrastructure while making central Arkansas’ public transit system even more sustainable,” said Charles Frazier, Rock Region METRO chief executive officer. “We are appreciative of the FTA’s focus on aiding public transit agencies with this innovative technology that will modernize our fleet and make it possible for METRO to reach its fleet conversion goal ahead of schedule.”
The “Shock the Rock” electric bus project supports Metroplan’s long-range metropolitan transportation plan goals, including improving vehicle fleet fuel efficiency, increasing the use of cleaner energy sources and providing infrastructure to support alternative fuel vehicle fleets. The project also meets the FTA grant program’s environmental justice requirement, aiding the central Arkansas region in maintaining air quality standards and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, which disproportionately affect people of color and low-income populations living in Pulaski County.
The “Shock the Rock” project brings a needed fleet modernization kick-start to Arkansas’ largest public transit agency. When these buses go into service, which is slated for Winter/Spring 2023, METRO will have 31 compressed natural gas buses, up to five battery electric buses and 10 or fewer diesel buses. This grant means METRO will more than likely reach its goal of phasing out diesel-fueled buses entirely by the end of 2025 even earlier than anticipated – perhaps by 2023 or 2024, as additional bus purchases are made.
A total of 49 projects across the country were awarded a share of $182 million in funding through the 2021 FTA Low- or No-Emission Grant program, which supports transit agencies in purchasing or leasing low- or no-emission buses and other transit vehicles that use advanced technologies such as battery electric and fuel-cell power to provide cleaner, more efficient transit service in communities across the country. METRO pursued the grant with the support of U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton, Congressman French Hill, Metroplan Executive Director Tab Townsell and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott.
“This grant will improve the efficiency of the vehicles 2.5 million Arkansans rely on each year while also investing in our local workforce,” said Rep. French Hill. “I am proud of our state’s teamwork and was pleased to support this grant submission on behalf of Rock Region METRO.”
“Rock Region METRO provides Arkansans with reliable transportation to get to work and other necessary appointments. This investment will strengthen transit services while supporting our environment,” said Sen. John Boozman.