RIPTA has focused on green initiatives that cut operating costs while reducing our environmental impact.
RIPTA also plays an important role in reducing vehicle emissions in Rhode Island by replacing automobile trips, reducing traffic congestion and enabling compact development. By providing high-quality transit service, we strive to make our state more sustainable. RIPTA has made green investments in the following areas:
• Clean Vehicles
• Efficient Facilities
• Green Building Initiatives
• Service Improvements
In October 2010, RIPTA celebrated the arrival of ten new classic hybrid trolleys, as well as replacing a portion of the fixed-route fleet with Gillig BRT Hybrid Buses.. The new hybrid diesel Gillig buses and trolleys are powered by clean diesel hybrid electrical propulsion systems that reduce emissions, save fuel and are smoother and quieter than conventional buses. This not only reduces air pollution, but noise pollution as well, thus improving the environment for Rhode Islanders.
Both trolleys and buses are compliant with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions standards for their year; these newer vehicles are required to meet tougher emissions criteria. Hybrid powertrains require about half as many brake repairs. In total, the hybrid fleet saves as much as $350,000 annually in operating budget costs, depending on the price of fuel and operational performance.
Classic Hybrid Trolleys
RIPTA purchased ten new vehicles with state of the art hybrid parallel drive diesel/electric systems. Federal Transit Administration Grants funded the base cost of the trolleys, while the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) covered the incremental cost of the Hybrid Propulsion System. A 20% local match was provided by State General Obligation Bonds. The trolley includes Gillig heavy-duty reliability and ADA accessibility wrapped up in the appeal of old fashioned trolley charm.
Gillig BRT Hybrid Buses
The hybrid bus features many improvements including new stainless steel bike racks for easer bicycle loading, new soft seating, and improved KONI shock absorbers for a better ride. The bus’s engine, a new Cummins ISL 2007 EPA Emission engine, meets all current EPA requirements. In addition, the front doors can now load wheelchairs and the wheelchair ramp has been redesigned to reduce maintenance. Funded by various Federal Transit Administration Grants, Rhode Island Bonds, and American Recovery & Reinvestment Act Grants, these new buses and trolleys were part of RIPTA’s normal fleet replacement plan to maintain the fleet in top condition. Replacement of diesel buses to a hybrid system yields as much as a 17% savings on fuel for RIPTA.
RIPTA continues to make strategic capital investments to reduce our environmental footprint. In the last five years, RIPTA won two competitive Federal Transit Investment for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) grants to invest in energy efficiency. RIPTA is constantly striving to reduce our energy use at our facilities in Providence and Newport by decreasing demand for electricity. Now we’re looking to produce our own energy using solar panels.
As a twenty-four hour operation housed in a number of older facilities, RIPTA is a major consumer of electricity. Grant money was used to retrofit all RIPTA’s facilities with energy-efficient lights. Lighting systems were improved at the Chafee Operations, Transportation and Maintenance Facility, the Buildings and Grounds/Utility Building, the RIde Administration Office Building in Providence, Kennedy Plaza, the East Side tunnel, as well as the RIPTA’s Newport Garage.
RIPTA worked closely with National Grid and Rise engineering, based in Cranston, RI, to replace existing metal halide and fluorescent fixtures in our facilities with new energy efficient light fixtures, saving energy and reducing operating expenses. The project reduced the variety of lights kept in stock and the frequency of replacement. Part of the lighting improvements included specially designed explosion-proof lights for special conditions in the Chafee Operations, Transportation and Maintenance Facility.
By converting to more energy efficient systems, RIPTA expected to save over $100,000 annually in electricity expenses. We are more than meeting that goal, and will realize nearly $100,000in savings with two buildings alone, the Transportation building at Elmwood and the Newport Division at Coddington Highway.
RIPTA maintains our facilities and buses using ChemStation’s green Multi-Purpose Cleaner. Their water-based cleaning products are biodegradable and do not present a threat to the environment. This cleaner does not contain phosphates, carcinogens, ozone-depleting compounds, or hazardous waste characteristics.
GREEN BUILDING INITIATIVES
New Paratransit Operations Center
In July 2010, RIPTA opened the Paratransit Operations Center located at 705 Elmwood Avenue in Providence. The Paratransit Operations Center, a $41 million 139,400 gross square feet facility, provided RIPTA with a much-needed state of the art building and equipment to accommodate RIPTA’s existing and future Paratransit fleet needs. The many “green” building features include a white reflective roofing system to reduce the heat island affect helping keep the building cooler and large skylights which are designed to bring natural light into the maintenance area. High-speed garage doors were also installed to reduce the amount of heat escaping the building. In addition, energy efficient lighting, low-E insulated windows, high performing air and vapor barriers, were used throughout the facility.
This new center helped RIPTA meet many long-outstanding needs and introduce a number of important operational efficiencies and enhancements. Moving existing operations to the Paratransit Operations Center will had a direct, positive impact on RIPTA’s labor, fuel, and energy usage, thus saving RIPTA thousands in operational costs. For example, the new Paratransit Bus interior storage increased indoor storage capacity. Due to limited storage in the past, approximately 40 fixed-route buses and 87 Paratransit/Flex vehicles remained outside, which became costly in the winter months. During winter weather conditions, additional RIPTA mechanics were staffed to idle bus engines periodically during the night to prevent overnight freezing and ensure the reliability of early morning service. The additional bus storage eliminated the need for this practice, thus saving RIPTA thousands on the costs of fuel and labor.
Transportation Building Solar Roof Project
During FY 2013, RIPTA completed the Roof Replacement/Solar Panel project at the Transportation Building located at 269 Melrose Street in Providence. The agency installed 1130 roof-mounted solar panels. Funds for the project are a combination of Federal ARRA funds, a competitive Federal grant for green investments, funds from the Attorney General’s settlement of an environmental lawsuit, and RIPTA revolving loan funds. In addition to producing solar power, RIPTA will add natural light in this building where there currently is none, such as the restrooms and the drivers’ lounge. The agency expects to earn $55,000 annually as a producer of solar energy.
R-Line Rapid Bus Route With the implementation of the R-Line in FY 2014, RIPTA is committed to operating a bus route that is more user-friendly and more environmentally friendly. At each of the 25 shelters installed along this route, lighting will be installed to create a safer waiting environment for passengers. This lighting will be powered only from solar panels and will not rely on the electrical grid for power. In addition, Transit Signal Priority (TSP) has been installed at more than 60 locations along this route. TSP technology will enable RIPTA buses to operate more efficiently with reduced idling at intersections. TSP will enable RIPTA to offer comparable service to what is already offered with fewer buses, therefore reducing the environmental impact of this route.