RFP - Action Plan for Electrification and Service Growth, RIPTA

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), in partnership with the Rhode Island Department  of Transportation and the Division of Statewide Planning, completed development of the Ocean State’s first-ever Transit Master Plan. This comprehensive vision outlines the types of service improvements and capital investments that should be made over the next two decades in order to provide the public transit system Rhode Islanders deserve. The plan was incorporated into the Long-Range Transportation Plan at the State Planning Council’s December 2020 meeting.

Four months after the Master Plan was adopted, Governor McKee signed the Act on Climate. This legislation updated the state’s existing greenhouse gas reduction targets and made them enforceable by law.  The legislation calls for a 45% reduction by 2030; 80% by 2040; and net- zero by 2050. These targets are in alignment with those called for by President Biden’s administration. Per the legislation, RIPTA, as a member of the Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (EC4) alongside other designated members, have been instructed to develop - and subsequently update the implementation plan for achieving those targets. Between the climate legislation and the recommendations of the Transit Master Plan, now is the time for RIPTA to develop a strategy to address its long term fleet and facility requirements.

RIPTA currently operates 230 diesel-powered buses and 3 battery- electrics as a pilot. The majority of them operated out of our Providence facility with a smaller contingent based at a satellite facility in Middletown. Substantial increases in service frequencies and longer service spans are called for in the Transit Master Plan meaning that RIPTA’s fleet will need to grow. Initial estimates suggest that the Authority could require an in- service fleet upwards of 400 by the year 2040. At the same time, RIPTA continues to have challenges in maintaining a stable fleet plan due to a combination of uncertain capital matching dollars, faster vehicle burn rate on useful life, and unique operational requirements. In addition, RIPTA (like many transit operators nationwide) has seen increased external pressure to accelerate the transition of its bus fleet from diesel to zero- emissions. The Authority has attempted to figure out what a long-range fleet transition plan would look like but with the current state of battery technology and unknowns concerning electrical capacity and infrastructure needs adds more challenges to confident planning. All of these various elements must be harmonized to ensure RIPTA cannot only grow and improve, but also enable it to still meet its core mission of making sure service is maintained every day.

Though the Authority has a Transit Asset Management Plan and is working hard on addressing identified items that need to be brought into state of good repair, a long term vision for our facilities are equally critical to fulfill the recommendations in the Transit Master Plan. The Master Plan calls for the development of numerous regional and community-level mobility hubs to help improve access while also vastly improving transit frequency and span of service. The expected growth in fleet size will need additional operational and maintenance facilities (and staffing) to ensure smooth daily performance and functionality. RIPTA staff have explored some opportunities within its immediate area it can consider to begin implementation on some elements of the Master Plan but it will inevitably need to expand to fulfill the plan’s full potential. This means the Authority will need to look into real estate (including site identification) and financial planning. Future facilities designs also need to keep in mind the infrastructure requirements of fleet transition (whether electric, hydrogen or another alternative fuel) and the context of climate resiliency, renewable energy (building off of an RFI RIPTA issued and net virtual metering arrangement between RIPTA and Kearsarge - both in 2020), and green building standards in relation to the recently enacted Act on Climate.

The generation of a long term fleet plan and a related facilities roadmap will give RIPTA a foundation in which to better determine capital programming and provide decision-makers with an informed strategy on how these elements will correspond to the successful implementation of the Transit Master Plan that will provide Rhode Islanders with a 21st century public transit service that will increase transportation choices, catalyze economic growth, improve the state’s quality of life, and create a cleaner and healthy place for all. RIPTA plans on using the completed documents to serve as a foundation for structuring our capital programming and to be amended as a living document as time progresses and opportunities and events unfold.

Please refer to the Request for Proposals for additional information.

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