Saying goodbye to diesel

RIPTA introduces first electric line from Providence to Pawtucket

Posted 5/17/22

By EMMA BARTLETT

Goodbye diesel and welcome electric. This week, RIPTA’s R-Line -- which runs from Providence to Pawtucket -- switched from diesel run buses to an electric fleet as part of …

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Saying goodbye to diesel

RIPTA introduces first electric line from Providence to Pawtucket

Posted

By EMMA BARTLETT

Goodbye diesel and welcome electric. This week, RIPTA’s R-Line -- which runs from Providence to Pawtucket -- switched from diesel run buses to an electric fleet as part of RIPTA’s transition to more environmentally-friendly transportation options. The R-Line has the highest ridership in the state – serving 20 percent of public transit riders on a weekly basis.

On Friday, local, state and congressional officials gathered at the R-Line’s end route on Montgomery Avenue (site of the former Palace Theater) for a ground-breaking ceremony for the new RIPTA in-line charging station. The station capable of charging up to three buses simultaneously, will have driver restrooms and other improvements such as an onsite snow-melt system. The hope is to have the $6.7 million project completed by fall 2022; BOND Civil & Utility Construction, Inc. – which is based out of Massachusetts – will do the construction work for the in-line station.

“This new electric charging station is not only a key component in our battle against climate change, but an environmental justice tool as well,” said Scott Avedisian, Chief Executive Officer of RIPTA. “Constructing this station at Broad City Line cements our commitment to reducing global carbon emissions, while improving air quality for transit-dependent communities burdened by the adverse health effects of pollution.”

This project is part of RIPTA’s Zero Emissions Electric Bus Program which started in 2019 when the company launched a pilot program with three leased all-electric buses. Phase one of the project included learning about the new technology, training staff and testing the performance of the electric buses on a variety of RIPTA routes. According to a Friday press release, phase two of the initiative includes the construction of the in-line charging station along the R-Line, as well as the purchase of fourteen electric buses as permanent additions to RIPTA’s fleet.

A large part of the funding for the project comes from a $14.4 million Volkswagen settlement and any remaining costs will come from federal transit funding.

Governor Dan McKee attended Friday’s ground breaking ceremony and shared that this project would help the state reach its climate goals that were established last year through the passage of the Act on Climate last year.

“You don’t have to live on the R-Line or even be a RIPTA passenger to benefit from this program,” said McKee.

By switching to electric buses, the fleet will lower emissions in the area where there are many low-income and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities who are affected by air pollution. The electric vehicles will keep asthma irritants (that are exhausted from diesel motors) out of the air which will help drive down asthma rates.

“We know transportation represents one of the largest sections of climate change pollution in our state,” said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, expressing how climate change is threatening our way of life and the future of the city and state.

“The new electric charging station furthers our Administration's commitment to cleaner air quality and zero-emission, sustainable energy. Projects like this also build on our momentum in ensuring Rhode Island is at the forefront of the green economy,” said McKee in a press release. “It is also critical that we ensure easier access to public transportation for riders, who rely on RIPTA’s services to get to school, work or the doctor’s office. I thank all of our partners who made this day possible and look forward to seeing the permanent fleet of electric buses on roads across our state.”

The location of the in-line station is shared by Cranston and Providence, and both mayors were present to express their thoughts on the project. Hopkins said the dividing line between the two cities was the fence along the property’s edge.

“Public transportation is crucial to so many Cranston residents,” said Hopkins. “This investment in green technology is a positive step towards making Rhode Island a healthier state by lowering emissions and reducing the negative impacts of air pollution. I applaud RIPTA for their efforts.”

Hopkins said the groundbreaking ceremony was a symbol for moving Rhode Island to a healthier and more sustainable future and served as an example to the rest of the country.

“I’m pleased that by transitioning to a fully electric bus route, our vulnerable population will be better served,” Hopkins said.

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