The Rock Region Metropolitan Transit Authority — Rock Region METRO — has been awarded $4.9 million to purchase up to five 40-foot, battery-electric buses (BEBs) and related battery-charging infrastructure, the organization announced Monday. Rock Region Metro serves as Central Arkansas’ primary means of public transportation.
The Federal Transit Administration grant represents the largest competitive grant award for the organization and is part of the FTA’s Low- or No-Emission Grant program. This is the fourth FTA competitive grant for Rock Region METRO since its first in 2016. Through its planned “Shock the Rock” project, Little Rock will represent the first region in the state to operate zero-emission public transit vehicles.
The METRO team is partnering on the buses with Proterra, a 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, according to a news release. 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” project brings a needed fleet modernization kick-start to Arkansas’ largest public transit agency, officials said. When the new buses go into service over the winter/spring of 2023, Rock Region METRO will have 31 compressed natural gas buses, up to five battery-electric buses and 10 or fewer diesel buses, the latter of which could be phased out entirely by 2023.
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. Rock Region METRO pursued the grant with the support of U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton, Congressman French Hill, Metroplan Executive Director Tab Townsell and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott.