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RACINE – The City of Racine has been awarded nearly $3.8 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Low or No Emission Vehicle Program to add four more electric buses to its fleet.

The grant, announced Wednesday, means that Racine Transit (RYDE Racine) will have 13 all-electric, battery-powered buses making nearly 40 percent of its fixed-route fleet zero emission. Racine was one of only 150 transit systems nationwide (and the only transit system in Wisconsin) to receive funding from the federal program. The city’s award totaled $3,796,872.

FTA’s Low or No Emission (Low-No) Grant Program makes funding available to help transit agencies purchase or lease U.S.-built low or no emission vehicles that use advanced technologies for transit operations. The bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $5.5 billion over five years for the Low-No Program. That’s more than 10 times greater than the previous five years of funding.

“The City of Racine continues to lead the way in the transition to a cleaner and more efficient mass transit system,” Mayor Cory Mason said in a news release. “It is the role of local government to provide essential quality-of-life services to our residents while being innovative and good stewards of taxpayer dollars as well as the environment. I am proud to have partners in the federal government who recognize our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and who are willing to invest resources into our city to help us achieve our shared climate goals.”

The city’s Transit & Mobility Director Trevor Jung also weighed in on what this means for the city and its efforts to improve its environmental impact.

“Once all 13 zero-emission transit buses have replaced their diesel counterparts, The City of Racine will reduce its carbon footprint by approximately 922 tons annually, and that’s a pretty big deal,” added Jung.

Wisconsin’s largest electric bus fleet

RYDE officially put its nine battery-electric buses into service in late April. Those vehicles, plus related charging infrastructure and workforce development, were funded by a $6.19 million grant from the Volkswagen Transit Capital Assistance Grant Program and $3.18 million from the FTA Low-No Program. The Volkswagen funding was part of a legal settlement that company made with the federal government over air-emissions rules violations.

The April send-off for the new buses gave Racine the distinction of having the largest electric bus fleet in the state. The buses, manufactured by Proterra, are expected to dramatically reduce local air pollution levels and save RYDE Racine about 60,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually.

Madison, Milwaukee electric fleets stalled

Meanwhile, Madison Metro Transit, which received a $1.3 million grant from the FTA Low-No Program, is waiting to put its three battery-electric buses into service more than two years after they were delivered.

The Capital Times newspaper recently reported that the lengthy delay was mostly caused by a 10-month retrofitting process to make the bus design accessible for wheelchair access. The electric bus rollout for Madison Metro Transit is now expected for late August or early September. That transit agency already uses hybrid-electric buses in addition to its fleet of standard diesel buses.

In Milwaukee County, global supply chain issues affecting the production of battery electric buses and charging facilities have delayed the launch of the county’s East-West Bus Rapid Transit system from October to the spring of 2023, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

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Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...

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